Benefits of Spending Time in Nature
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Spending time in nature is good for your soul and has various benefits for your health and well-being. Time spent outdoors can boost moods and better concentration in all aspects of your life. Let’s look at some of the benefits you can experience just from stepping outside for a bit.
Increase Happiness and Reduce Stress
An experiment in Japan concluded that participants who walk in nature are more likely to have lowered stress levels. For this study, participants walked in urban settings, and another group walked in a more natural environment.
Lower heart rates and higher heart rate variability means less stress and more relaxation. Studies show that walking in nature and not just exercising can reduce stress and increase happiness. Studies also show that looking at nature scenes or listening to nature sounds like birds chirping can reduce anxiety and lessen the effects of stress. Nature also promotes positive thinking and improves memory. These are just some of the benefits of spending time in nature.
Better Focus and Concentration
Natural settings have been proven to provide cognitive benefits compared to urban settings. Studies show that people have increased attentional functioning and better working memory when in greener spaces and have access to more natural environments. Some researchers believe that these benefits stem from our ancestors in a biophilia hypothesis. Since our ancestors were dependent on nature for their survival, as a species, we are more attuned to our connection with our environment.
Others believe that our attention restoration and reduction of stress are related. As posed by researchers, attention restoration theory believes that your cognitive resources, like paying attention and concentrating, are replenished by the benefits of spending time in nature. The inherent power nature can have over our well-being is astounding. Research shows that nature can awaken your senses and make you more alert.
Increase Creativity and Spirituality
A little bit of sunshine can get our creative juices flowing and allow us to connect with the great outdoors. Nature provides us with an array of beautiful colors, from deep shades of foliage in the Fall to bright and cheerful colors of flowers in the Spring. The vivid colors can spark creativity and allow our imaginations to become more active. Watching wild animals roam and gather food can give us perspective and ignite storylines about creatures and their survival tactics. The sounds of nature can be so soothing when immersed in it. Sitting next to a moving body of water can create a sense of calmness that can do wonders for your emotional well-being.
Walking in nature can help clear your mind of clutter and debrief from society for a while. Meditation techniques can assist in becoming more connected with the natural world surrounding us. Spirituality encompasses feeling more unified with our surroundings. Focusing on the dirt beneath our feet and the fresh air we breathe can teach us valuable life lessons and connect us with nature and our spirituality.
Heals and Restores
Nature’s elements can reverse negative emotions that can erupt in unpleasant environments. Stresses from hostile surroundings can provoke feelings of anxiousness and sadness.
Muscle tension, increased heart rate and heightened blood pressure can all affect a negative environment that can suppress your immune system. Scientists have found that nature scenery and being submerged in nature positively affect our minds and bodies and might even reduce mortality.
Nature has also proved to help us tolerate and cope with pain better. Nature has soothing and healing properties that are beneficial to patients. Studies show that patients in a hospital with natural scenery were more likely to heal faster and spend less time hospitalized. Spending time outdoors is also shown to have positive effects on patients that experience anxiety, depression and ADHD. Interviews conducted show that patients feel more calm and balanced after spending some time in nature.
Ecotherapy uses outdoor activities as a method of therapeutic treatment for our physical and mental health. You can combine it with other forms of therapy like arts and crafts, talking therapy and medication.
Ecotherapy involves focusing on structured outdoor activities. These activities range from social and professionally organized activities to activities more focused on exploring and appreciating nature. Rather than focusing on promoting health, it encourages people to focus on the activity at hand. The natural environment aids in the reduction of stress and anxiety they may be experiencing.
It is highly encouraged for everyone to spend at least 120 minutes a week in nature in some form or fashion. You can break that up into daily segments or spend two hours outside in one day. The effects seem to hold the same amount of weight. This time spent outdoors comes with a multitude of benefits, including enhanced overall well-being. While more studies are needed to conclude the 120-minute threshold, it is worth noting that time spent outdoors doesn’t come with any adverse side effects besides getting sunburn from not using enough sunscreen or shade from its harsh rays.
Improved Sleep and Better Breathing
Spending time outdoors can help lower the risks of respiratory problems if you have access to natural green spaces. Surprisingly, indoor air pollutant concentrations can be two to five times higher than outdoor ones. Air pollution can contribute to allergies and asthma. The freshest air circulation has the best quality and can contribute to better breathing.
Nature can also improve your sleep quality. Since your internal clock is aligned with the sun, you are awake during daylight hours and tired after dark. Direct sunlight has over 200 times the intensity of artificial light inside a closed room. Sunlight needs to enter your eyes to affect your circadian rhythm, but it does much more for you than lights from electricity.
So, you can improve your sleep by soaking up some Vitamin D. Being exposed to sunlight helps your sleep cycle by helping you feel more tired when the sun goes down. Daily doses of sunlight can also improve the quality of your sleep. The sun can also positively affect the time it takes you to fall asleep.
Reap the Rewards of Spending Time in Nature
Spending time outdoors is refreshing and can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered. These benefits and more are all up for grabs as soon as we step out our front door. Go for a walk or pack a beach bag and head to the closest body of water. We should do ourselves a favor and soak up some sun to reap the rewards it naturally provides!
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About the author
Steve is the Managing Editor of Environment.co and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.