Benefits of Nature to Our Health
Category: Healthy Living
Posted on June 14, 2021
Scott is passionate about health and wellness, and enjoys writing on various topic surrounding these fields. Scott lives in Seattle and spends his free time restoring old furniture and playing pickleball with his friends.
What does your average day look like?
Does it involve hours spent inside? Perhaps you're behind a computer screen or in a small office with no natural light? Do you find yourself sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic or on public transit dreaming about a few moments of freedom?
That's because your body is craving the benefits of nature. It is longing for a few moments of peace and tranquility. It's begging you for wide-open spaces and beautiful scenery.
Getting out in nature isn't just about the breathtaking views and wildlife. Studies have proven that spending as little as two hours per week in nature has drastic effects on your health and wellbeing.
How does nature improve our health and what can you do to start reaping the benefits? Read on to learn more about the advantages of nature to our health and some activities to get you out and about.
Benefits of Nature and Our Health
The health benefits of nature include everything from emotional wellbeing to mental acuity and physical fitness.
Countless factors contribute to chronic stress. These can be anything from a full workload to family issues or unexpected life events.
Living in a concrete city cooped up inside contributes to feelings of being trapped. This, in turn, exacerbates stress by impacting your ability to cope and think rationally.
Being out in nature gives your mind, body, and soul a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of normal life. Time in nature is associated with lower heart rates and decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It allows your system to re-establish balance naturally and holistically.
You might be wondering how nature helps us with memory. Nature exposes you to sounds, smells, and sights that you don't often encounter in your everyday routine. These elements activate attention and memory centers in your brain.
Cognitive studies have found that walking in nature and even viewing photos of nature help improve memory recall. If you want to boost memory at work or school put up photos of beautiful nature scenes. However, it is important to realize that you only receive the full benefits of nature by getting out into it.
Stimulate Serotonin Production
In 2005 Richard Louv exposed the world to the term 'nature-deficit disorder.' Although this is not recognized as an official disease, it is used to describe the negative impact that lack of nature has on emotional well-being.
Children who spend more time in nature tend to have fewer behavioral issues. This is most likely due to the mood-enhancing effects of sunshine. Being in nature makes you happy by increasing the production of serotonin.
Serotonin is a hormone that helps stabilize mood. It also reduces the occurrence of depression and anxiety. The more time people spend outside, the higher their serotonin levels and the better able they are to manage difficult emotions and life events.
If you are like most people, you are often surrounded by technology. Cell phones, computers, and televisions can overstimulate your brain leading to mental fatigue. Having a tired brain leads to decreased focus while performing everyday tasks.
You might miss a crucial detail at a staff meeting, or even fail to notice a red light while driving. That's why getting a weekly dose of nature is so important.
Nature has a slower pulse which gives your brain a chance to wind down and disconnect allowing it to reset. The next time you are feeling run down, consider getting away to the mountains or countryside for the weekend.
Strengthens Immune System
Everyone knows the adage that an apple a day can help to keep the doctor at bay. What you might not have known is that a daily walk can work the same way.
Taking time to get out into nature stimulates white blood cell production. These cells are essential for fighting off viruses and bacteria that infect the body and make you sick. The next time you are feeling a bit under the weather pack a bag with some nutritious foods and head out for a little quality time with nature.
Access to Vitamin D
Having a balanced diet doesn't always mean you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient required for bone health, cell growth, and immune function. Although you can get vitamin D in certain foods such as fish, red meat, and eggs, it is often insufficient.
Just 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected sunshine per day is enough to fill your body's vitamin D quota. After that put on some sunscreen and continue to enjoy the daylight.
Promote Weight Loss and Heart Health
Surrounding yourself with nature does not mean you have to do something active. However, when you couple nature with physical activity you can promote weight loss and improve heart health.
Outdoor activities such as walking, rollerblading, and cycling utilize your body differently. Muscles that normally remain inactive begin to demand additional oxygen and stimulate increased blood flow. Performing regular cardio outside is one of the best ways to strengthen your heart and boost your lung capacity.
Heals Your Body
For centuries people have searched for magic elixirs to extend life expectancy and ward off disease. If only they understood the true cure is right out the front door. One of the greatest advantages of nature to our health is its ability to aid in healing.
Doctors have discovered patients who have plants in their room or a view of trees tend to heal faster and require less pain medication. In addition, going outside daily slows the aging process, keeping people feeling younger longer. One study of adults in their seventies showed those who went outside frequently had fewer complaints and pains as they got older.
Humans and animals alike have natural sleep-wake cycles, known as circadian rhythms. By being exposed to different levels of light your body regulates its internal clock, which is responsible for carrying out different biological processes.
Constant exposure to artificial light can throw off your normal rhythm and affect your quality of sleep. One of the greatest benefits of nature is that it helps to re-establish a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Getting outside during the day assures that your brain is most active during daylight hours. Then once it gets dark your body is more prepared to settle into a deep and restful sleep.
Social Connection and Interaction
The benefits of nature are not limited to the individual level. One 2015 study showed that having access to green spaces reduced overall crime and encouraged community bonding. Rather than resorting to crime out of boredom, adolescents could head to the park.
Green spaces provide a setting for people to gather, socialize, and relax. They are a great place to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions. They also provide space for people to participate in group sports like soccer and baseball.
Things to Do in Nature
Spending time in nature doesn't have to be a chore. There are so many great activities you can do to promote your health and well-being.
Take a Walk
This is one of the easiest ways to get your daily fix of nature. Enjoy the gentle sounds of the waves by walking along the beach. Increase your daily steps on a bike path that runs along a green belt or river.
You don't have to have access to a huge green space to enjoy the benefits of nature. Anywhere with a few trees and a bit of wildlife will do. Even a stroll through your local park will imbibe you with renewed health.
In addition to providing you with access to nature, walking has a lot of its own health benefits. As a form of cardio exercise, you will burn calories and increase your heart health.
Go on a Hike
Although there are lots of benefits of being outside in general, it goes without saying that some nature is more encompassing than others. Get a fully immersive experience by going on a hike.
Hiking exposes you to flora and fauna you don't often see in the middle of a city. Depending on where you hike you will be filling your lungs with clean, fresh air. Hiking is also a great way to challenge your body and really get your blood pumping.
Before heading out on the trail, always make sure that you are prepared with extra water, snacks, and a first aid kit. Check-in with locals about poisonous plants and animals to avoid. Also, make sure to investigate trail difficulty so you don't bite off more than you can handle.
Participate in Water Activities
The benefits of nature don't stop where the land ends. There is an entire range of water activities that get you outdoors and reaping the emotional, mental, and physical benefits of nature. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Whitewater rafting
As you get out there and try different water activities, don't forget to put on some sunscreen. Water reflects sunlight and increases your exposure to harmful UV rays. This makes you more susceptible to burns and increases your chance of developing skin cancer later in life.
By itself, regular meditation has countless benefits on your health. It helps reduce stress and encourages clarity by calming the mind. Taking your meditation routine out in nature is a great way to increase the benefits.
Let nature lull you into a state of relaxation with the sound of the wind in the trees and the light melodies of bird songs. Your body will also be thankful for the burst of fresh air.
But what if you live in a city where your only access to nature is interrupted by sirens, horns, and other loud noises? Grab a set of headphones and head to the park anyway. You will still be able to enjoy the smell of the trees, the feel of the earth beneath your feet, and the touch of the sun on your skin.
Read a Book
Who said reading had to be an indoor activity? Head down to your favorite cafe, grab a coffee, and set yourself up on a blanket in the middle of the park. You'll be feeding your mind with a great story or non-fiction while enhancing your entire being with your surroundings.
Have a Picnic
As mentioned before children are also impacted by a lack of exposure to natural places. Having a picnic is the perfect way to get the entire family out of the house and receiving the benefits of nature. Don't forget to bring a soccer ball or frisbee to get in a bit of exercise.
Sleep in Nature
There is something quite special about sleeping out under a stary night sky. Take a weekend camping trip or if you live near nature set up the hammock in your backyard.
The fresh air and peaceful night sounds will do wonders for your health. After a great night of sleep in nature, you will wake up feeling refreshed, less stressed, and ready to take on the day.
Why Nature Helps Us
There are so many wonderful benefits of nature to our health. Improve your concentration with a daily walk through the park. Boost your immune health during a weekend getaway.
Whatever adventure you choose, spending time in nature is sure to leave you feeling refreshed and centered.
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Spending at Least 120 Minutes a Week in Nature: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44097-3
The Physical and Mental Consequences of Chronic Stress: https://www.pricepropharmacy.com/the-physical-and-mental-consequences-of-chronic-stress/
The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting with Nature: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19121124/
'Nature-Deficit Disorder' Is Really a Thing: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/23/parenting/nature-health-benefits-coronavirus-outdoors.html
Sunshine, Serotonin, and Skin: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3779905/
Top 10 Foods That Boost the Immune System: https://www.pricepropharmacy.com/top-10-foods-that-boost-the-immune-system/
Going Outdoors Daily Predicts Long-term Functional and Health Benefits: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18332184/
Seeing Community for the Trees: https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/65/12/1141/223866
Benefits of Nature Experience: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0169204615000286
9 Benefits of Meditation: https://www.pricepropharmacy.com/benefits-of-meditation/
The Complex Relationship Between Sleep and Stress: https://www.pricepropharmacy.com/the-complex-relationship-between-sleep-and-stress/