Nature reminds us of how connected we are to the universe. Being outdoors strengthens our minds and bodies and has an incredible effect on our health and well-being. Research proves that spending time in nature reduces depression, increases energy and even encourages anti-cancer cells to ward off disease. The physical and psychological benefits cannot be found anywhere else.
When we are emotionally upset or feeling unwell, we feel disconnected from the world around us. Spending time outdoors helps remind us of how everything is interconnected and can be a great source of healing. Healthy minds support healthy bodies, and spending even just a few minutes outside can reduce your risk for chronic disease, high blood pressure and depression.
Here are just a few of the health benefits of feeling connected to nature.
1. Lowers Blood Pressure
Spending time in nature is proven to lower diastolic blood pressure, and scientists believe this has something to do with chemicals produced by trees. In Japan, many individuals engage in a practice known as forest bathing, which involves spending time immersed in the woods and taking in all the health-supporting organic compounds produced there.
2. Boosts Immune System
It is no surprise that individuals who spend more time in nature tend to have stronger immune systems. This is why many health professionals encourage parents and caregivers to let their kids play outside in the dirt because healthy exposure to microbes boosts young immune systems. Additionally, being in the sun is the best way to get vitamin D, a vital nutrient in maintaining health.
Additionally, breathing fresh air can reduce our chance of respiratory illnesses, including asthma. Letting children play outdoors helps strengthen their lungs and reduces the risk of sickness.
3. Reduces Anxiety
Stress and anxiety have physical symptoms, such as heart palpitations and sweaty palms. According to the principles of positive psychology, connecting with nature reduces production of the stress hormone cortisol. Depending on your circumstance, being both still and active outdoors can reduce stress.
4. Provides More Energy
Today, more people than ever live in environments completely separated from nature. We spend most of our time working in climate-controlled offices, removed from the space where we spent most of human history. Recent studies suggest that all individuals are predisposed to seek nature because, as a species, that is the environment we are most familiar with.
It is not surprising that being in nature would have an invigorating effect on most people. This is mainly because fresh air refreshes the senses and increases oxygen flow to the brain. Taking a few deep breaths outside can wake you up and make you feel ready to tackle the day.
5. Fights Cancer
Spending time outside reduces inflammation and supports anti-cancer cell formation. Inflammation is the main cause of many diseases, including cancer and autoimmune disorders. Feeling connected with nature allows the body to fully relax, encourages the immune system and supports anti-inflammatory processes.
6. Reduces Depression
Some of the most remarkable research involving nature and wellbeing is the connection between depression and being outside. According to a study by Stanford University, mental health benefits include a decrease in depression symptoms and a reduction in the future risk of other disorders. While scientists are still not sure why this happens, there is substantial proof that feeling connected with nature impacts emotional regulation.
7. Improves Focus
Most of us find ourselves multitasking all day, wondering how we’re going to get everything done. Whether you live in the city or a more rural area, stepping outside for just a few minutes can be a wonderful way to refocus your mind. Being in nature takes away distraction, allowing us to focus on what is truly important. The busier your workday, the more frequently you should take a stroll around the block, step outside in your backyard and take a few deep breaths.
Take A Deep Breath
There is nothing like walking through the woods, breathing in the fresh air and feeling the sunshine on your face. Feeling connected with nature not only has physical benefits, like reduced heart rate and improved immune function, but also psychological ones. If you are looking to heal both body and mind, spending time outdoors is one of the best ways to reduce stress and improve mental functioning. Even a few minutes in nature can improve your focus and reduce anxiety.
Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work.