It’s no secret that spending time in nature is good for you. It strengthens your health, reduces stress and improves mental wellbeing. Here's why:
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilised people are beginning to realise that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.
– John Muir
Have you ever wondered why you suddenly feel ‘recharged’ after a day at the beach? Or a walk in the park?
It’s no coincidence. There is a direct correlation between connecting with natural environments and improving wellbeing. And allowing yourself to become absorbed by nature has countless health benefits. It restores your mind and body.
“Spend more time outdoors.”
You’ve heard the advice a million times. So what’s the secret?
Let’s get to it. Here are 6 ways that spending time in nature improves your wellbeing:
1. Reduces stress and helps you relax
If you get stressed easily, you might find that spending more time in nature will recharge your mental batteries. We’re bombarded by a never-ending stream of stimulation within our schools, workplaces and cities. So much that our minds are unable to bear it all and come away unscathed.
You may wonder why:
Contemporary life is jam-packed full of tasks and occurrences that demand and sustain your voluntary attention; things like writing an essay, taking part in a business meeting, watching TV, scrolling on social media.
Maintaining this voluntary attention over long periods of time is mentally draining. These strains accumulate, building up to produce tension and pressure within our minds.
This is what we perceive as stress. It’s depleting. And what man-made environments take away from us, nature gives back.
Spending time in natural environments offers respite from such strains. Wild rainforests and waterfalls command your attention in a very different way to urban landscapes.
The outdoors doesn’t ask anything of you. Forests, streams, oceans and mountains demand very little from us. But they’re still engaging and ever changing. Nature gently distracts you from the stressors of civilised life.
Humans have an innate love for nature. We are genetically programmed to find elements of the outdoors engaging. In this way, reconnecting with nature has a profound calming effect. It rejuvenates your mind and body.
Think about it.
You get tired of school work, extensive reading, writing reports. Its draining. But that all melts away in the outdoors. You never become weary by watching the sunrise, walking along the beach or beholding mountain ranges.
Nature brings you back to the present moment. It helps you get out of your own head and enjoy the beauty around you. So stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues may all be eased by some time in the great outdoors.
Stressed? Do yourself a favour and head for the trees!
2. Makes you happier and restores mental energy
Nothing gives you a greater boost of happiness and energy like connecting with the outdoors. Think back to the last time you were surrounded by the wilderness… You were happy, right?
Natural environments are calm, peaceful, organic. The help you centre your mind. And in doing so, they rejuvenate your soul.
Modern society is obsessed with filling our time. We spend every spare minute in our lives watching Netflix, scrolling on Facebook, checking Instagram – most of us can’t even watch TV without using our phones at the same time.
This means we’re always doing ‘something.’ Most of the time, it doesn’t even make us happy.
You know that feeling where your brain seems to come to a halt? That’s called mental fatigue. All of this time spent mindlessly watching TV or browsing social media is draining your mental energy.
When you go outside, you’re freed from the constraints of time. The everyday stressors are hushed and your brain finds a necessary moment of solace in the absence of chaos. You feel a greater sense of connectedness. An improved sense of self.
Feeling down? Go watch the sunset.
3. Boosts your focus, concentration and short-term memory
It might seem like a stretch, but spending time in the outdoors actually improves cognitive performance. Nature gives your brain a break from everyday overstimulation, which can have a powerful restorative effect on your attention levels.
Do you get easily distracted by social media and your phone?
Well, the solution may be this easy.
The calming effects of nature help to clear you mind. We’re willing to bet that the last time you were surrounded by the wilderness, you weren’t worried about social media, relationship problems or your ever-increasing work load. These distractions are meaningless.
Here’s the kicker:
The sense of awe that nature inspires allows you to ground yourself. These benefits last well beyond the time you spend in the outdoors, helping you to maintain a clear mind. And this inherently improves your focus and short term memory.
4. Improves your physical health
Exposure to nature not only improves your emotional wellbeing but also contributes to your overall physical health.
Remember learning about the ‘fight or flight’ response in 8th grade science? It’s a physiological reaction induced by high stress levels. And, as the name suggests, it prepares you to either fight or take flight. We’re talking about responses like acceleration of the heart and constriction of blood vessels.
Believe it or not, prolonged stress in everyday life is inducing a mild ‘fight or flight’ response within all of us. As we’ve already talked about, humans feel an innate connection with the earth, so we are naturally calmed by the outdoors.
The time you spend in natural environments reduces the production of stress hormones, which results in lower heart rates, muscle tension and blood pressure. This has a number of benefits, including:
5. Makes you more creative
The overstimulation of the modern world poses a threat to your creativity. The constant distractions and stimulation of contemporary life drain your resources and numb your mind.
Escaping to natural environments can improve your creativity by up to 50%. A growing body of research suggests that getting away from it all’ promotes clarity, innovation and originality in your thought process.
Nature gives your mind a break, allowing it to turn its full attention to imagination, deeper thinking and problem solving. So being in nature inspires creativity!
6. Boosts social functioning
Spending time in in nature is truly humbling. You come to see yourself as part of an ecosystem of intimately connected beings. You expand your consciousness and feel a greater sense of unity with other lifeforms.
It’s no secret:
Spending time in nature enables you to feel a greater sense of connectedness. It promotes a greater sense of empathy and compassion. And in this way, the outdoors facilitates social wellness – it increases self-esteem, improves emotional intelligence and provides a stronger sense of belonging.
In this way, the wilderness enables people to form strong social relationships and boost social functioning.
So what does all this mean?
The time you spend in nature has profound benefits upon your mental and physical wellbeing. And the time you don’t spend in natural environments has severe consequences.
So it’s time to stop, put down your phone and get outside. Make it a habit to increase your contact with the wild.
Take a walk. Feel the wind as it plays with your hair. Feel the grass, the sand, the soil beneath your bare feet. Watch the sunrise. Lay beneath the moon and the stars.
Breathe deeply. Allow nature to embrace you.