We all have childhood memories of our parents encouraging us to actively explore the outdoors. They were always right. Let’s see how they were spot on when they said we need to spend more time outside.
Experiencing nature has been linked to numerous benefits like lowered stress levels, improved mood, higher quality of sleep, augmented concentration, improved creativity, and decreased aggression. These advantages are largely due to the calming and restorative effects the natural environment has on the human body.
Here are some reasons why natural environment is essential for our wellbeing:
- Physical and mental health benefits – Research has shown that nature’s greenery can have a powerful impact on our mental wellbeing. Not only can it reduce stress and tension, but it can also boost productivity and creativity levels while improving mood and overall outlook. Spending time outdoors in natural settings can also improve cardiovascular health, help lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate and improve overall blood circulation.
Studies have shown that spending time surrounded by nature can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, improve mood and emotions, promote better sleep quality, enhance focus and concentration, increase creativity, and even decrease aggression. From reducing rumination and stress levels to improving concentration and attention performance, spending time outdoors is an effective way to promote holistic health and well-being.
- Nature’s calming effect – Natural settings have a natural ability to soothe our mind and body. It can be incredibly calming and therapeutic, especially during times of stress or mental fatigue. The colors of the flora and fauna create a vibrant atmosphere that encourages relaxation. Studies have found that spending time in a natural environment can decrease feelings of anxiety.
The refreshing scent of greenery or water can be a calming influence on our minds, helping to alleviate the tension and stress of everyday life. The lush green of the trees, along with the vibrant colors of the flowers, is a sight that can bring peace and serenity. Not only do these natural elements provide visual tranquility, but they can also help improve air quality. Also, there is a study that shows that exposure to green plants, in home environment, can significantly reduce indoor air pollution.
- Reduced stress levels – Exposure to natural environments can help lower cortisol levels. The presence of foliage in an environment has been shown to be a major contributor to reducing stress levels. Foliage, specifically trees and other green spaces, can decrease cortisol levels in the body while also increasing serotonin levels. This leads to an overall feeling of relaxation and well-being. Other benefits associated with increased exposure to foliage include improved air quality, regulation of temperature and reduced noise pollution.
Studies have shown that spending time outdoors in natural areas can reduce stress levels and improve overall mood. One study conducted at Stanford University found that, when compared to urban settings, walking in natural environment led to a decrease in the participants’ level of rumination – an intrusive form of thinking linked to depression. Additionally, research from South Korea showed that walking along a wooded path increased parasympathetic nerve activity – an indication of reduced stress levels – more so than when walking along a city street.
- Improved attention and concentration – studies have investigated the positive effects the natural environment has on attention and concentration. In one experiment at the University of Illinois, participants who viewed images of green outdoor spaces displayed improved attention performance when compared with those who looked at photos from urban settings. Not only did this finding suggest that exposure to greenery can be beneficial for focus but it also provides evidence for a ‘restorative effect’ – where direct contact with natural elements can help restore mental fatigue and improve overall cognitive performance.
The Japanese concept of “Tree Bathing“, or Shinrin-Yoku, is a traditional practice of connecting with nature through mindful awareness. It involves spending time in a forest environment and absorbing its sights, smells and sounds to promote physical, mental and emotional well-being. This practice has been gaining popularity in recent years due to its potential to reduce stress levels and improve overall health. Shinrin-Yoku can be done by anyone, from beginner to expert level, and its benefits are numerous. It helps lower blood pressure, improves mood and energy levels, increases focus and concentration, boosts immunity, reduces fatigue and more.
- Great options for outdoor activities – Whether you’re walking through a park, taking a hike in the woods or tending to your garden, time spent outdoors is invaluable for our physical and mental health. Outdoor activities can also be the perfect way to build strong family relationships. Not only do these activities create lasting memories, but they also provide opportunities for members of the family to learn from each other and grow closer.
In addition to offering a change of scenery, outdoor activities allow a family to bond by engaging in meaningful and enjoyable experiences together. One such activity is hiking, which offers an opportunity to explore the great outdoors and soak up the beauty of the natural environment. It is a perfect way to exercise, build muscle strength and improve cardiovascular health. Another popular outdoor activity is gardening, which can be a calming activity that allows us to nurture plants and watch them grow. It’s also a great way to get your hands dirty and connect with the beauty of the natural world.
Fishing too is a great way to connect with the natural environment and relax. It can help us hone our focus, strengthen hand-eye coordination, and provide an opportunity to bond with friends and family. Try camping, which allows us to explore the outdoors while providing a sense of adventure. The physical activity of setting up camp, gathering firewood, and walking in the woods can be good exercise and help us to get away from the stress of daily life.
- Health Benefits of Sunlight – Sunlight plays an important role in regulating our circadian rhythm and producing Vitamin D. Our body’s natural clock, the circadian rhythm, is regulated by light exposure. Sunlight helps to synchronize this internal clock with the external environment, helping us to maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle. In addition, sunlight triggers chemical reactions in the skin that result in the production of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, immunity and overall health. Sunlight also has other important benefits such as improving mood, concentration and alertness levels throughout the day. Regular exposure to sunlight can help keep us feeling energized and more positive while also positively affecting our immune system functioning.
With all the above-mentioned benefits, we now know that people who spend time in nature experience decreased cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress. These positive physiological effects are not limited to the moment; research has evidence that regular visits to natural areas can lead to long-term improved mental health, such as fewer feelings of anxiety and depression. To conclude, spending time outdoors can lead to higher self-esteem and better overall wellbeing.