Author & Video – Emma Triplett

One of the most important reasons for getting out into nature is to rebalance your body’s systems.

We have two nervous systems, one is your central nervous system and, if I was to bash you with a stick you would probably feel it and go ‘ouch’: this one we all know about, but there is also your autonomic nervous system which controls all the automatic systems in your body, everything from your heart rate to your temperature to the functioning of your kidneys, to the blood going round your body etc and it has two branches, the sympathetic branch and the parasympathetic branch.

When you’re constantly bombarded with the stresses of your day to day life, and also your thoughts for example when we worry and what If about stuff, we’re artificially turning on the sympathetic branch so it’s gradually getting higher and higher and putting your body under more stress and into flight or fight.  This results in being out of balance with the sympathetic branch activated the majority of time and the parasympathetic branch which relaxes you supressed, so we need to rebalance it. 

When you get out and walk, you start to rebalance these systems and the excess adrenalin that has been  produced via the flight/fight mechanisms can be walked off.  The stress or agitation you’ve been feeling from the overstimulated sympathetic branch subsides and, at the same time, you start to produce ‘feel good’ serotonin and other good neurotransmitters that rebalance your body and mind.  You may have felt this when you’ve done any physical activity, when you first start out, you might feel tense, but by the end you feel more relaxed, happy and calm, that is rebalancing in action, the adrenalin being burnt off and serotonin being produced.  If you’re going into flight or fight the best thing you can do is fight or run; you don’t have to start a brawl in the street of course, or go and run a marathon, but doing something that emulates those actions, or if you go or a relaxing walk to demonstrate to your mind there is no longer any crisis, emergency or danger,  it will have the same effect. You are allowing the parts of your body associated with the parasympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system, which includes mainly your digestive system from swallowing right the way through, to start working properly again and your whole system relaxes, your heart rate normalises, your breathing deepens and slows and your thoughts can just come back into the moment, switching off from being constantly on the go.  

It is really important however that when you do go out walking that you’re not putting yourself under time pressures, marching and thinking about when you have to be back, instead you give yourself enough time to go out for a relaxing walk and enjoy the moment.

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