Do you ever stop to think about how much nature benefits our mental health? Do you feel a little better after a long walk through your neighborhood? Or a trip to the park with the kids? Does a gorgeous view of the ocean or the sound of the rain falling make you feel calm and content?
It’s almost as though you can’t help but smile when you see a beautiful rainbow. The simple beauty of a sleek dolphin frolicking in the water or the smell of freshly bloomed flowers are indescribable in their simplicity.
Nature is spectacular in so many ways we can’t even begin to count them. It even has such a positive effect on our mental health and wellbeing.
How does nature relieve stress and benefit my health?
Nature relieves stress in the simplest of ways. Spending time outside lowers your cortisol levels. These are stress markers that make us feel more anxious and stressful over certain situations. When we spend time outdoors, our bodies release less cortisol and more natural endorphins, which promote happy thoughts and good feelings. It’s a natural stress reliever.
When we spend time outdoors, we also receive Vitamin D. This vitamin is known to be correlated to reduce depression. Just remember to always wear sunscreen and protect your skin from the harsh UV rays the sun emits.
Nature relieves stress in your body by reducing inflammation, stress, and even depression. It can also increase our creativity, and attention capacity. There is such a positive effect on the body when you spend time outdoors, even if it’s for no more than 20 minutes every day.
One more positive effect of being in nature is it can prevent having many health problems. There is less air and noise pollution when you are surrounded with trees. Living close to green spaces also can reduce incidence of having allergies from microbe usually present in urban areas.
Nature Improves Your Mood
A study finds city dwellers are more at risk of having anxiety and mood disorders, compared to the people living in rural areas. In another study, researchers have given evidence that people who are exposed to beautiful nature scenes are more generous, trusting, and helpful towards others.
We mentioned earlier that spending time outdoors enjoying nature helps your body produce more endorphins, which are feel-good hormones. These go directly to your brain where they tell you to stop, enjoy the outdoors, and relax. Your mood changes significantly when you spend time outdoors. There is a feeling of meaningfulness and vitality. Participants in a study claim they feel the change from being depressed, stressed, and anxious, to a more calm and balanced self.
Think about it this way. Do you feel more relaxed and happy after a long walk around your neighborhood or on the beach? Or do you feel more relaxed after taking a long walk on the treadmill in your home or at the gym? Chances are you’re feeling much better about your walk after you spend time outdoors. That’s because your body released additional endorphins to promote feelings of happiness. There is also a reduction in blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and lesser of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Spending Time Outdoors Allow Us to Disconnect
One of the biggest problems plaguing our mental wellbeing is our constant state of connectivity. We have unlimited access to the lives of everyone on the planet, the Internet, the news, and sometimes even things that are not important. Checking work emails when we aren’t at work, answering text messages in three minutes or less, and becoming distracted by the fabulous lives others are showing via social media leave us all feeling burnt out and overwhelmed.
Spending time outdoors allow us all a chance to disconnect. Nature relieves stress by forcing us to put down the phones and computers and really disconnect from the distractions. Nature benefits our mental health by allowing us to focus on connecting with the surroundings and ourselves. We tend to notice the smell of flowers, how vibrant the colors are outside, and we let go of things that don’t matter so much.
We become more aware of how we take deep breaths or how we feel when we close our eyes and allow our other senses to take over. Sometimes we need nothing more to relieve stress and feelings of anxiety than to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life.
Spending time outdoors also help us connect with things that are more important. Residents of a community with more trees and space within their surroundings reveal that there’s more belonging and unity within the neighborhood.
How do I find more time to spend outdoors?
If you’re struggling to find time in your hectic schedule to spend time outdoors, you’re not alone. Try keeping notes throughout the day for a few days to see where you spend your time. You might realize just how much time you’re wasting on social media and the internet and find a way to rearrange your schedule to allow you to spend more time outdoors.
Try exercising outside a few days a week rather than heading to the gym. Look for a yoga class that practices outside by a beautiful body of water, or join a group that takes long walks through the woods or along the beach each day.
If you have kids, encourage them to play games outside rather than spending time inside playing on their electronics or watching television. They will benefit just as much as you from the additional time spent outdoors enjoying the fresh air and green space.
For children, research shows there is a great improvement physically, socially, emotionally and helps with their cognitive development. Outdoor activities also prevents them from getting overweight.
Elderly people gain great advantages going to green neighbourhood meeting places, or group-based nature activities such as walking. They are able to both exercise and socialize, which can reduce loneliness and depression.
Your life is not meant to spend cooped up inside all the time. Your body and mind responds positively to nature and the outside world. Being in nature relieves stress, good for our mental health, and helps you live a better and more enjoyable.