We’ve all experienced the calming effect of nature. You get out into the woods or the desert, find a quiet moment, and suddenly you feel lighter and refreshed. But, most of us don’t always have a forest right outside the door or the time to go for a hike. Let’s explore other ways to experience nature in our day-to-day lives, and the surprising ways in which it can affect your total health and wellness.
8 Benefits Of Nature
Science shows that spending time in nature provides stress relief, clarity, hormonal balance, a natural source of energy, and even optimism. In a study where 18,500 participants were asked to “do something wild” every day for 30 days, there was a 30% increase in participants who rated their health as “excellent.” Here are some of the many ways nature can be a great prescription to whatever ails you.
- Vitamin D from the sun promotes bone health, elevates mood, improves blood flow, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and more.
- Natural light helps regulate your body’s natural rhythms. Getting outside first thing in the morning not only helps wake you up, but it’s proven to help you sleep better as well.
- Unplugging from electronics, especially those delivering emails and other messages throughout the day provides a chance to destress and lower heart rates.
- Steadier moods are often noted by people who spend regular time in nature. It provides an opportunity to get away from causes of anxiety and stress and see things in a new perspective.
- Clearer thinking is a result of the mood-steadying effect and the meditative environment that nature tends to provide. Stepping away from your desk or from an argument to breathe some fresh air or listen to the birds sing can do wonders to help sort your thoughts.
- Deep breathing, which is often our body’s reaction to fresh air and the natural environment, engages the parasympathetic nervous system (the opposite of fight or flight), thus providing a calming sensation.
- Serotonin, the neurotransmitter that affects mood, memory and social behavior, is elevated by the negative ion-rich oxygen found in nature as well as the bacteria found in soil. Learn more about up-regulating serotonin production.
- Nature makes you a better person. Besides all the benefits to your personal health, recent studies have shown that exposure to the natural world makes people more generous, trusting, optimistic and helpful.
How to Get More Time in Nature
No prescription needed for the nature cure. Just pick a couple ideas from the list below and try to incorporate them into your daily life.
- Make being outdoors part of your routine. What is a daily task that you can start doing in the yard or on the stoop? Maybe it’s drinking your morning coffee, opening the mail, reading the paper, eating lunch or catching up on phone calls. If you have the choice to eat outside for lunch, grab that bench.
- Gear up. Depending on your environment, find a cozy hat and sweater that you love or a cute raincoat or umbrella. Be prepared to go outside every day, every season, unless it’s dangerously hot or cold.
- Try new seasonal activities or get back to old ones you love. Find something for every season that you can look forward to doing on a regular basis. Maybe team sports in the spring, water sports in the summer, biking in the fall, snow sports in the winter. Put it on your calendar so it doesn’t get pushed aside for more “pressing” activities.
- Go for a walk. Make walking a part of your daily routine. You can do it in the morning to wake up, after work, after dinner, whenever it can fit in regularly. If you have a lot of meetings, try to make at least one a day a walking meeting! Adopting a dog is a great way to make sure you get that daily walk in.
- Take your socializing outdoors. Catch up with friends while exploring a local trail or dining al fresco.
- Get out of the car. Walk or bike to your destination when possible. If you can’t, then park a few blocks away so you can get a little exercise in the fresh air.
- Take your exercise routine outdoors. Even if you have a very small outdoor area, many types of exercise can be done outside. Get creative and see if you can do your HIIT, yoga, tai chi, or weight training out in the sunshine. Just make sure you hydrate!
- Bring the outside in. Surround yourself with life when inside as well. Plants like Rubber Trees and Boston Fern purify indoor air. Flowers tend to bring a cheeriness to the room. Stones and shells tend to bring a calming feeling to the indoor environment.
After seeing all these benefits, it’s obvious why it’s good for us to get out into nature, but it’s not always so easy to get up the motivation to actually do it. With this dilemma in mind, Nature RX created a parody video that pokes fun at pharmaceutical companies and reminds us of the importance of getting outside at the same time. Complete with a long list of “side effects,” this video will have you smiling and might just get you motivated to take a nice long hike.
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