“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.” – Lord Byron
It’s something we know intuitively to be true: nature is good for the soul. We’ve heard it from ancient philosophers and poets, from modern gurus, healers, and preservationists. Now a growing group of scientists have joined the forest-loving chorus, providing empirical proof that getting away from it all lives up to the hype.
Here are five scientific ways a nature vacation can rejuvenate mind, body and soul.
1. Give Your Brain a Rest and Find Yourself
Your brain works hard for you. When focused on a mental task, your brain uses 25-30% of all the energy your body produces. When relaxing in nature, lulled by the sound of rolling ocean waves, warmed by a tropical breeze, your brain enters a daydreaming state and settles into what scientists call default mode network or DMN. This state of wakeful rest is essential to mental processes that foster creativity, personal insights, empathy, and memory recall. You can connect with your inner self and achieve personal growth when you let your brain chillax.
2. Your Body on Vitamin D
Vitamin D supplements have been trendy longer than kale. But why buy a bottle when you can get it from the source? Spending an hour or two in the sun will give you all the natural Vitamin D your body needs. It helps maximize calcium absorption, promoting healthy bones and teeth. It’s also a natural mood booster and it reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and more. By relaxing your blood vessels, Vitamin D reduces blood pressure. Take your Vitamins while body surfing in the Pacific or hiking the trails near Arenal National Park.
3. The Sleep of Angels
Natural sunlight does more than provide a recommended daily dose of Vitamin D, it can also help regulate your sleep cycle. The hormone melatonin controls your body’s internal clock – it’s what makes you feel sleepy. melatonin is not produced when you’re exposed to sunlight; production starts in the evening, after the sun has set. Spending your day in warm natural light will re-set your body clock, ensuring a deep sleep so you can wake up refreshed.
4. Breathe In Good Vibes
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects your mood, memory, and social behavior. Too much can make you feel crabbed and snappish, too little can cause depression. Breathing fresh oxygen helps to regulate your serotonin levels, creating a sense of well-being. In Costa Rica you can get your fill of good vibes on forest hike, a horseback ride, or simply drinking deeply the fresh salty air.
5. Natural High
Exercising outdoors increases your brain’s production of endorphins, natural morphine-like chemicals that instill feelings of euphoria, elation and profound contentment. A beach run, a morning swim, or a surf lesson will give you a satisfying brain buzz while lowering your body’s cortisol levels, a key step in reducing harmful stress.