Have you ever noticed that it feels really good to spend time in nature?
Spending time in nature has a well-documented impact on physical and mental health, so you’re not alone. We all spend a lot of time these days staring at screens, and it’s common to feel disconnected from the natural world around us. Even if we enjoy spending time out in nature, it’s hard to fit it into your schedule when there are a million other things to do. However, it’s easier to benefit from nature than you might think!
What counts as nature?
Nature is a broad term, so it might be a little confusing. You might imagine nature as being a forest or a park, but nature can include pretty much anything involving the outdoors. Some scientists have even found that watching nature documentaries can provide some of the same mental health benefits as being out in nature. Nature can range from parks, forests, rivers, wetlands and beaches to a tree lined street in the city or your home garden. Even window boxes and indoor plants offer the benefits of nature.
We don’t all have the same access to nature and green spaces, so it’s helpful to know that you don’t need to go far (or even outside at all!) to reap the benefits of nature. If you don’t have easy access to green or blue spaces (like forests or rivers), you can still benefit from nature by watching nature documentaries, listening to nature sounds, keeping plants indoors, or keeping a window box of flowers on your windowsill.
Feeling connected to your surroundings makes a difference when it comes to feeling the benefits of nature. It’s hard to take in the positive effects of being outdoors when you’re glued to your phone or focused on something else. For best results, spend some time in nature without distracting yourself.
What are the benefits of spending time in nature?
The benefits of spending time outdoors are physical and mental. Not only does spending time outside feel good for your body, but it has calming and rejuvenating benefits for your mental health. This is part of why it’s so appealing to be in nature – it feels good!
Some physical benefits of spending time in nature
- Improved sleep
- Decreased blood pressure and heart rate
- Lowered stress hormone levels
- Improved immune function
- Reduced muscle tension
- Increased pain tolerance
- Improved memory
Some mental benefits of spending time in nature
- Reduced stress
- Increased happiness
- Decreased negative emotions
- Improved attention and concentration
- Increased sense of generosity or empathy
- Reduced depression and anxiety
- Improved self-esteem
- Improved mood
- Increased connection to the community
- Helps develop a sense of meaning in life
- Inspires a sense of awe
Why does it feel so good to spend time in nature?
There are a few theories as to why it feels so good to be in nature. Some researchers think that since our ancestors spent most of their time outdoors, we are pre-wired to want to connect with nature. Others believe that since spending time in nature has such powerful stress reducing effects, we’re drawn to it to lower our stress levels. Still others think that we are driven to spend time in nature because it helps to replenish us cognitively, which improves concentration and ability to pay attention.
We might not ever find out why exactly spending time in nature is so rejuvenating, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy our time outside. How can you spend some time in nature this week?
Are you interested in the wellness benefits of spending time in nature? Join us this summer for our Hiking Group, which you can learn more about on our Groups & Workshops page.