In today’s modern world, nature is often pushed to the peripheries as society grows. Many of us are more likely to see nature through a Netflix documentary or photos they found online. While modern society certainly has its benefits (thank you, modern medicine), getting back to nature can also make you healthier and happier in a number of ways. Whether that’s camping or heading to the park, we’re going to look at a few ways that being in and around nature can benefit your life! The incredible thing is that you don’t even need to be in the deepest, wildest woods or outside for a long time. As we’ll see throughout this article, you’ll be able to start reaping the benefits of Mother Nature in a matter of minutes.
Gives You a Sunny Disposition
One of the most profound ways that nature can influence your life is through your emotional well-being. Spending time in nature is an incredibly effective way to manage your stress and even fight anxiety, which can have wide-ranging benefits to your physical health. According to the American Heart Association, simply being in nature can improve nearly every facet of your mental health, from stress and anxiety to mental fatigue and creativity. These findings are backed up by a number of studies and scientific research, making a strong case for adding it to your regular routine.
In one study, green exercise improved the self-esteem of 90 percent of participants.
Two studies from the University of Essex found that “green exercise” (outdoor workouts) had a profound effect on participants. In the first study, green exercise improved the self-esteem of 90 percent of participants, while the follow-up meta-analysis reinforced these findings and found green exercise effective after only five minutes. Another study from Stanford University found that participants who walked for 90 minutes in nature settings, instead of urban ones, experienced decreased activity in the parts of the brain tied to depression, which may help lower one’s risk of developing depression or help individuals handle already developed cases. Other studies have tied results to even shorter stints of time in nature, with one finding that all you need is 20 minutes outdoors to receive the positive effects. Spending time in nature has also been found to increase cognition and working memory while combating mental health issues, even after only brief spells outdoors.
Helps You Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D
Being outdoors is also one of the best ways to get your daily dose of Vitamin D and the main way to get Vitamin D in your system is through sunlight. Not getting enough sunlight can create some serious problems as Vitamin D influences many sections of the body, primarily the bones. Without the proper amount of Vitamin D in your system, your body struggles to absorb the calcium it needs, instead taking it directly from bones. Over time, this can lead to conditions like osteoporosis and broken bones.
Vitamin D is also potentially helpful with weight loss.
Beyond bone health, Vitamin D also is influential in a smoothly running immune system, which can keep you from getting sick. Also, it’s potentially helpful with weight loss. Just be sure to avoid being in the sun too much and wear sunscreen since too much sunlight can increase your chances of skin cancer or skin damage.
Supercharges with an Energy Boost
Are you feeling run down and exhausted today? Instead of downing yet another cup of coffee, try stepping outside. Simply spending 20-minutes outside has been found to be as effective as a cup of coffee to wake you up during the day. Speed up the effects by adding in a nice walk outside, as it has been found that just 10-minutes of walking outdoors is as energizing as a cup of coffee. Another study found spending time outside increases your sense of being alive, vitality, and your energy levels. Finally, a meta-study of five distinct research studies also found that being outdoors had a strong connection to greater feeling of vitality and energy.
Lowers Risks of Disease and General Mortality
Spending time outside has also been linked with lowering your chances of several major serious conditions, in a number of systems. For one, simple walks in the woods or a wooded environment can cause your cardiovascular system to relax, which was reflected in lowered blood pressures and heart rates. These can reduce risk of heart disease and mental illness. These benefits may be long-lasting with one study finding a link between growing up around green scenery (even in urban areas) and lower risk of mental health issues later in life. But the benefits don’t stop there. Spending time outdoors has been linked with lower risks of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, preterm birth, stress, high blood pressure, and premature death.
Spending time outside has been shown to improve your general health.
That’s right, being outdoors is linked with lower risks of premature death. The way this occurs is by improving your general health, which spending time outside has been shown to do. This hypothesis has been supported by other studies, which also link greenery, time outdoors, and lower risks of mortality.
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Keep in mind, the benefits we listed so far have only been from simply being outdoors. They may have also been from taking a walk or sitting by your favorite tree, but a primary factor was that it was outside. This doesn’t take into account that being outside encourages a number of healthy pastimes and hobbies, which add even more health benefits. You can do the obvious habits like hiking, bird-watching, or outdoor photography, but you can also garden, bike, or simply go for walks. And, the list doesn’t end there. Who knew that choosing whether or not to head outside could potentially be one of the healthiest decisions you make today?
National Geographic — Call to the Nature: This Is Your Brain on Nature