There is no better way to reconnect with yourself than by reconnecting with nature. While it may seem small, simply getting out into nature can clear your mind and release a lot of stress and tension. Some people prefer the scent of the sea air, some people prefer a stroll through a wooded area, and some prefer the vast expanse of the mountains and a mountain breeze. Regardless of your preference, it is important to get as far away from the city as you can. When you need to clear your mind, a peaceful environment is incredibly important. The sea, the forest, and the mountains all offer therapeutic benefits, but the mountains have the added benefit of being located at a higher altitude.
Taking time to meditate
Urban environments are filled with an extreme amount of sensory stimuli. Everywhere you look you are bombarded with ads, stores, cars, busy people running this way and that. It can be difficult to remove yourself from all of your worries and responsibilities when you are surrounded by so much hectic movement. Add that to the amount of pollution you breathe in on a daily basis, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
When we are stressed, our bodies produce cortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone.” While small amounts of cortisol can be beneficial, chronic stress wears heavily on the body. Countless studies have focused on the negative effects of stress, which can lead to a variety of chronic health conditions. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and trigger psychiatric conditions. 1
Taking time to escape to the mountains allows you to clear your mind, breathe fresh air, and simply be. Whether you are suffering from chronic stress or simply have had a bad day, you can let it all go - even if just for an afternoon. You don’t need to be familiar with meditation to reap the benefits. Sometimes all it takes is closing your eyes and breathing the fresh air. Try to clear your mind, or if that’s too difficult, try to focus on something positive. Simply taking a mindful stroll through nature can be an act of mediation. When you take a trip away from the city, you find that you can truly be yourself again.
Many mountain landscapes offer a forested environment and those that don’t still have a unique variety of plants that offer a wide range of beneficial terpenes. The Japanese concept of forest bathing focuses on the effects of taking a mindful walk through nature. Many studies have found that simply taking time to be in a forested environment can lead to positive changes, both mentally and physically. The longer you spend in nature, the better you’ll feel.
The positive effects of altitude on the body
The body may take some time to acclimate to life at higher altitudes, but the benefits are worth the transition. Research has found that those that live at higher altitudes have a longer lifespan, lower risk of heart disease, and lower obesity rates than those who live closer to sea level.
A population-based analysis of US counties was published in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in 2012. The aim was to determine the cause of variation in life expectancy across different areas of the US. The results showed that counties that were located above 1500m (5000 ft) had longer life expectancies than those located within 100m of sea level. The mortality rate from heart disease was also lower in counties that were located at a higher altitude. 2
A similar study was conducted in Switzerland in 2009. Researchers aimed to determine the effects of altitude on cardiovascular disease, collecting data from between 1990 to 2000. The results showed that the mortality rate from heart disease and stroke significantly decreased with increasing altitude. Those who had been born at a higher altitude had an even lower risk of cardiovascular disease. 3
Breathing in the mountain breeze
Part of the benefits of living in the mountains come from how clean the air is at higher elevations. Since mountain towns are often smaller, there is less pollution from factories and cars. And because these towns sit at such a high altitude, they are located above the pollution that often lingers over larger cities.
Think about taking a deep breath in the middle of a crowded city. Now imagine yourself taking that same deep breath on a tranquil path through the mountains. Which is better? It comes as no surprise that mountain air is cleaner, crisper, and more enjoyable than that in an urban environment. Not only does the air simply feel cleaner, it offers a wide range of terpenes that simply can’t be found in a concrete jungle.
A large aspect of forest bathing is using all of your senses to connect with the nature around you. Scent is one of the most powerful memory-inducing senses, and breathing in all of the fresh scents can trigger fond childhood memories. A study published in 2007 aimed to determine the physiological effects of forest bathing. The results of the study showed that when in a forest environment, blood pressure and pulse rate of participants was significantly lower. Stress levels were reduced, and feelings of comfort and calm were significantly higher. 4
Using essential oils to mimic nature
Sometimes life gets too hectic, and frequent trips to the mountains aren’t feasible. Luckily, essential oils offer all of the health benefits of terpenes you can find in a natural environment. While diffusing essential oils may not be the perfect replacement for a walk through the mountains, they can promote feelings of calm and relaxation even if you’re stuck in a city. If you feel as though you need to clear your mind, try diffusing essential oils such as peppermint, black spruce, cypress leaf, juniper leaf, copaiba, and other woodsy oils. When you can’t get out into nature, bring nature to you.
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