The British Columbia Effect: The Therapeutic Effects of Getting Back to Nature

Tofino Forest
Destination BC
If you’re feeling stressed, depressed, uninspired, or just plain tired, it might be time to head for the hills, literally.  “The British Columbia Effect” by Destination BC explores the positive effects spending time out in nature can have on one’s physical and psychological well-being. According to the video, as little as 3 days in nature can cause us to become “less stressed, better problem solvers, even more creative.”1  This 5-minute short film follows Top Chef winner and restaurant owner Brooke Williamson as she seeks relief from her high-stress job in the British Columbian wilderness. She travels to Vancouver Island and finds peace and wonder in the stillness of the old-growth forests and rugged coastlines around Tofino.

“I couldn’t stress myself out if I tried right now,” Williamson says, staring up at the giant trees reaching through the forest roof towards the sky, watching from a boat as bear cubs tumble and play on the shore, and strolling the beach bathing in the pink and orange hues of the sun setting over the ocean. 

While artists and authors have long praised the rejuvenating effects of nature, a growing body of scientific research has emerged to back up these ideas.

“Stress can affect every single system in your body,” says Dr. Melissa Lem, an expert on nature’s effects on well-being. As she describes, research shows that time in nature can cause adrenaline levels to drop, reflecting a drop in stress, and immunity to be boosted, an effect which can last for up to 30 days afterwards.1

The American Heart Association delves deeper into the necessity of nature for well-being, giving a whole list of ill-feelings that can result from being too long separated from nature by our modern, urbanized, technological society, including feeling depressed, stressed, anxious, fatigued, uninspired, antisocial, disconnected, and angsty. “Humans evolved in the great outdoors,” they explain, “and your brain benefits from a journey back to nature.”2 

Humans also evolved in community, which means you don’t necessarily have to go alone to experience nature’s healing effects. Harvard Health cites a study that finds group experiences in nature to be just as potent as solo ones. In fact, group travel can even amplify nature’s healing effects: people who had recently experienced stressful life events like a serious illness, death of a loved one, or unemployment had the greatest mental boost from a group nature outing.”3

Part of the magic of The British Columbia Effect is that the journey back to nature is so easily accessible. British Columbia is rich with so many different kinds of nature to experience, and from any of BC’s urban centres, you don’t have to travel far to find that sense of natural connection. 

From Tofino’s warm rays of sun piercing the forest’s ceiling, to the wild waves calmly crashing into the rugged shorelines of Vancouver Island; from the fresh alpine air of Whistler’s winter wonderland, to the calming steam of the Kootenay Mountains’ natural hot springs; from the stillness of sparkling lakes in the BC Interior, to the majestic snow-capped Rocky Mountains; there’s nature everywhere. 

The British Columbia Effect is about far more than grabbing some quick pics of some cool-looking trees for Instagram, though. It’s about taking the time to enjoy being where you are, breathing it in, listening, and experiencing a sense of oneness with nature. 

As Tsimka Martin, member of the Tlaoquiaht First Nation on Vancouver Island, says, “Everything is interconnected… and when you really listen with your whole being you start to observe those interconnections.”1 

To put it another way, as Albert Einstein famously said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

Written by: Janelle Visser

Sources & Further Reading

1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=328&v=hRxG2mmVYYM&feature=emb_logo

2 https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/spend-time-in-nature
-to-reduce-stress-and-anxiety

3 https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature

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