With Summer finally here, I highly recommend spending lots of time outside. I personally get so many benefits from it, and that’s why I call nature my playground. It makes me feel happier, more alive, more connected, and I feel I perform much better when I get back into a creative space after spending time outside.
Nature offers one of the most reliable boosts to your mental and physical well-being. Here are just a few potential benefits:
1. Improved short-term memory
In one study, University of Michigan students were given a brief memory test, then divided into two groups.
One group took a walk around an arboretum, and the other half took a walk down a city street. When the participants returned and did the test again, those who had walked among trees did almost 20% percent better than the first time. The ones who had taken in city sights instead did not consistently improve.
Another similar study on depressed individuals also found that walks in nature boosted working memory much more than walks in urban environments.
2. Restored mental energy
One thing that can help get your mind back into gear is exposing it to restorative environments, which, research has found, generally means the great outdoors. One study found that people's mental energy bounced back even when they just looked at pictures of nature. (Pictures of city scenes had no such effect.)
Studies have also found that natural beauty can elicit feelings of awe, which is one of the surest ways to experience a mental boost.
3. Stress relief
Tensed and stressed? Head for the trees. One study found that students sent into the forest for two nights had lower levels of cortisol — a hormone often used as a marker for stress — than those who spent that time in the city.
In another study, researchers found a decrease in both heart rate and levels of cortisol in subjects in the forest when compared to those in the city. "Stressful states can be relieved by forest therapy," they concluded.
Among office workers, even the view of nature out a window is associated with lower stress and higher job satisfaction.
4. Reduced inflammation
Inflammation is a natural process the body uses to respond to threats like damage (e.g., a stubbed toe) and pathogens (e.g., exposure to the flu).
But when inflammation goes into overdrive, it's associated in varying degrees with a wide range of ills including autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, and cancer. Spending time in nature may be one way to help keep it in check.
5. Improved concentration
We know the natural environment is "restorative," and one thing that a walk outside can restore is your waning attention.
In one early study, researchers worked to deplete participants' ability to focus. Then some took a walk in nature, some took a walk through the city, and the rest just relaxed. When they returned, the nature group scored the best on a proofreading task.
Other studies have found similar results — even seeing a natural scene through a window can help.
The attentional effect of nature is so strong it might help kids with ADHD, who have been found to concentrate better after just 20 minutes in a park. "'Doses of nature' might serve as a safe, inexpensive, widely accessible new tool ... for managing ADHD symptoms," researchers wrote.
6. Sharper thinking and creativity
"Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improve your cognitive functioning at zero cost." That's the dramatic opening to a 2008 paper describing the promise of so-called "nature therapy" — or, as a non-academic might call it, "time outside."
7. Improved mental health
Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues may all be eased by some time in the great outdoors — especially when that's combined with exercise.This is to be expected, to some extent, as both greenery and exercise are known to reduce stress.
So get out there and make nature your playground too!
I'd love to hear about how nature inspires you, how it makes you feel healthier and more connected. So please do share your insights in the comments bellow.
To your vibrant health,