8 Ways Nature Can Improve Well-Being

In all honesty, Mother Nature can sometimes find the inner world quite difficult to compete with. After all, it can’t offer a flat-screen TV, air conditioning, or WiFi. But it could potentially offer something even more important: better health, thanks to a stronger immune system, better sleep and reduced stress.

Spending time outdoors can improve physical and mental health in several ways. You also don’t need to spend hours outdoors before these benefits kick in.

According to a study 2019 which included data from 19,806 participants, spending at least 120 minutes in nature per week can significantly improve health and well-being. You can go for a 2 hour chunk all at once or break it up into smaller daily segments – the benefits still apply.

Even in the absence of greenery, spending time in the sun and fresh air can help you feel better about yourself and about your body.

Below, you’ll find 8 health benefits of spending time outdoors.

Air pollution can trigger allergies, asthma and other respiratory illnesses you may already be familiar with. However, you may be surprised to learn that indoor concentrations of air pollutants are often two to five times higher than outdoor concentrations.

But spending more time in natural green spaces could help reduce your risk of respiratory problems.

A study 2016 examining the relationship between local greenery and mortality risk followed 108,630 women for 8 years. Compared to people with the least greenery in their neighborhood, people with the most greenery were 34% less likely to die from respiratory illnesses.

You will usually find the coolest air in places with high air circulation. For example, camping in an open field can relieve you more of pollution than resting along a river surrounded by skyscrapers and factories.

Typically, your body’s internal clock follows the sun, making you feel awake during the day and sleepy at night. Although artificial lighting can mimic natural light, direct sunlight has 200 times the intensity of office lighting in a closed room. As a result, sunlight affects your circadian rhythm more than electric light.

Exposing yourself to the sun can improve your sleep by:

The good thing about sunlight? It costs nothing. To get a daily dose, you just need to go outside.

Just keep in mind that sunlight has to enter your eyes to affect your circadian rhythm. If you’re hoping to improve your sleep, picnicking at the beach may be more helpful than napping in a shady wooded area.

Sunlight can often help relieve symptoms of depression like low mood and fatigue.

Light therapy can help treat both major depression and seasonal depression. If you suffer from seasonal depression, you may notice an improvement after a few days. If you have major depression, it may take up to 2-5 weeks before you notice any improvement.

Experts still don’t know exactly how sunlight affects depression.

Some people believe that sunlight has a protective effect because it can help your body produce vitamin D. Sunlight may also improve sleep, which reduces the severity of symptoms of depression.

If depression has sapped your energy, you can still get sunlight quite easily. Try to get your daily dose by eating breakfast, reading a book or getting some good old-fashioned sunbathing, but don’t forget the sunscreen.

Training in green spaces could help boost your motivation exercise in the future, in part because outdoor exercise can:

  • provide a nice change of pace from gyms and make physical activity more interesting and enjoyable
  • facilitate socializing, as many gyms have unspoken rules about not chat with the person on the treadmill next to you.
  • feel easier and less tiring, depending on research 2013 suggesting that people who walk outdoors tend to exercise at greater intensity and report less exertion

You don’t need to ride a triathlon or ski down a mountain to exercise in nature. Any activity that gets your body moving in a way you can, such as gardening, playing with your dog in the park, or washing your car, can have health benefits.

The modern world contains many intrusive stimuli – flashing screens, vibrating phones, rumbling pavements – vying for our limited attention. This continuous overstimulation can increase your stress levels without you even realizing it.

The natural world, on the other hand, can provide mental and emotional refuge when you need to relax and recharge. In nature, soothing attractions for your senses, from the scent of flowers to the music of birdsong, can hold your attention without draining your mental energy.

Research from 2020 suggests that spending time in nature can help you feel more relaxed and focused, especially when you take time to notice your surroundings. To get these benefits, you might consider doing slow-paced contemplative activities like hiking in the woods or kayaking on a lake.

Expert advice suggests that you are less likely to contract the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), let alone other viruses, when you are outdoors. This is because air circulation can dilute the presence of viruses in the air. Indeed, according to research 2021the risk of transmission is 18.7 times higher indoors than outdoors.

Even ignoring the pandemic for now, spending time outdoors can still help your immune system function optimally. Non-dangerous microorganisms found in nature can do workouts with your immune system, so to speak, to help prepare it for more serious infections.

If you live your life in a completely sterile environment, your immune system may lose its ability to recognize what is dangerous and what is not. It can then raise a red alert for any microorganisms it encounters, which can lead to chronic inflammation.

So while soap is a wonderful invention, getting dirty once in a while can also be good for you.

Some evidence suggests that children who spend a lot of time outdoors are less likely to develop nearsightedness or nearsightedness.

A study 2020 included 10,743 children aged 9-11 in Taipei. Researchers found that children who spent more time outdoors during recess were 22% less likely to develop myopia than their peers.

Increasing the eye-to-work distance during close-up work and pausing after 30 minutes of close-up work also offered some protection.

Experts have proposed a some potential reasons why spending time outdoors can help protect against myopia:

  • Natural light offers a brighter and richer collection of light wavelengths to see.
  • The exterior allows your eye to practice looking at objects at different distances.
  • Light stimulates the retina to produce dopamine, which prevents your eyeball to stretch and distort your vision. This theory, however, has only been tested on animals.

This benefit only seems to affect the eye as it grows, so spending time outdoors cannot reverse myopia in adulthood.

However, regular childhood outdoor activities like playing ball, swimming and sledding might just save your child a trip to the optometrist. An added bonus: they also provide great opportunities for bonding family.

Time spent outdoors can do more than help relieve unwanted or painful emotions like fear, worry, and sadness. It can also help promote the emotions you want to feel more of, such as happiness, peace, and optimism.

Going out at night can also leave you feeling a sense of wonder and connection with the world. Additionally, the decrease in noise and light can help you focus more easily on the world around you. If you want to forge a deeper or more spiritual connection with the nocturnal natural world, consider night activities like stargazing or night fishing.

It’s easy to sometimes forget that a whole world really does exist outside your window.

Getting into the habit of regularly spending time outdoors, especially in nature, can go a long way to improving physical and emotional well-being. It can also go a long way in strengthening your connection with the planet or with Mother Nature herself.

Emily Swaim is a freelance writer and writer specializing in psychology. She holds a BA in English from Kenyon College and an MA in Writing from California College of the Arts. In 2021, she received her Board of Editors in Life Sciences (BELS) certification. You can find more of his work on GoodTherapy, Verywell, Investopedia, Vox, and Insider. Find it on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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