“Nature is an important need for many and vital in keeping us emotionally, psychologically, and physically healthy” – Mental Health Foundation.
There’s so much to be said about being outside in nature and how it impacts our overall health and well-being. When we spend time moving outdoors, or even just sitting still—breathing in fresh air and truly being present—it can have magical effects on both body and mind.
I often think of sunrays as downloads. The beams give our body updates—upgrades if you will, to our physical and mental health.
Simply getting out and spending time in nature has the following science-backed benefits.
Strengthens The Nervous System
The nervous system’s natural state is called the parasympathetic state (AKA “relaxed”). This is when it does its best work, helping all the parts of the body communicate with each other.
In today’s world, many of us spend a lot of time in a stressed state, where the nervous system goes into “fight or flight” mode and stays there longer than it should.
With chronic stress sometimes taking a toll on our daily lives, it’s important to make a conscious effort to bring the body back into a state of calmness, so the nervous system can go back into its parasympathetic state.
Spending time in nature has been shown to bring calmness and reduce stress, allowing the nervous system to relax, as well.
Boosts The Immune System
A healthy immune system reduces risk of illness and infection, lessens fatigue and helps the body heal faster.
There have been many studies associating low vitamin D levels with increased infection. Vitamin D is referred to as “the sunshine vitamin” because the sun is one of the best sources of this nutrient, and it just so happens to be critical for your immune health. Being out in nature, and thus consistently exposed to sunlight, helps strengthen your immune system.
Another way to understand the relationship between nature, health and the immune system, according to Science Daily, is that exposure to nature shifts the body into "rest and digest" mode, which is the opposite of the "fight or flight" mode we discussed above.
When we are out in nature, in a relaxed state, our body can invest resources toward the immune system—making it stronger and making us healthier.
Enhances Mental Health & Well-being
Being in nature generates many positive emotions, such as calmness, joy and creativity. The biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature, since our ancestors evolved in wild settings and relied on the environment for survival.
The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that exposure to nature is linked to a host of benefits, including:
The APA also reports that human contact with nature is associated with increases in overall happiness, subjective well-being and a sense of meaning and purpose in life.
Practical Ways To Spend More Time In Nature
Since spending time in nature can mean many things, the benefits are available to each and every one of us, no matter where we live—whether it be green spaces such as parks or forests or blue spaces like rivers, beaches or canals. Nature also means trees on an urban street or private backyard gardens.
Looking for more practical ways to spend time in nature? Here are some ideas: