More than two-thirds of people choose a natural environment when they are feeling stressed. Why? Simply because Nature gives us a relaxing environment – one in which it’s easy to let go of all of our pent-up stress. While in nature, we are able to rejuvenate our minds and bodies, gain clarity, and reduce stress levels. In turn, this makes us happier, kinder, and more creative people!
When you were last outside enjoying nature, do you remember feeling good? The fresh air, possibly the sun, open space, and the wonderment of it all gave you an “I’m letting go of it all” kind of feeling. You were happy. We know that nature tends to do this, which is why we all love it so much and find ourselves yearning for it at times (like during stressful, busy days, or if we have yet to get out), but do we know why we benefit so much from time outside? Here are 5 ways that time spent in nature helps regulate our health; giving us properly functioning bodies and a healthier, happier mindset.
1. Your Brain Gets Much Needed, Down Time
In a study published in the National Academy of Sciences, conducted by a group studying the Psychological effects of city dwelling, walking in nature resulted in less blood flow in the subgenual prefrontal cortex. This is the part of our brains that is responsible for the broken-record fretting. You know the, why are there so many things wrong with me, why isn’t my life better, why don’t I have these things, thoughts. The act of continually having these negative thoughts is called rumination. When studying adults who lived in cities – it was found that a walk along the paved sidewalks vs. a walk along tree-lined paths are not the same. Only in the ladder case, when one is truly walking in nature, does this part of our brains become less active.
2. Fresh Air Improves Blood Pressure, Our Heart Rate, Makes us Healthier, and is Good for Our Digestive System
Wow, what? Yes – getting out of heavy-polluted environments and high-traffic areas gives our body a full detox, all thanks to the increased oxygen that you’ll breathe-in in nature. Fresh air increases the flow of oxygen, which in turn, helps us digest food more effectively. Oxygen helps our white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off infections and bacteria, keeping us nice and healthy. Fresh air also helps improve our blood pressure and our heart rate, because of the decrease in pollution. Talk about a body detox!
3. Oxygen Affects Your Sense of Well-Being
In addition to the benefits that were previously mentioned to our bodies with the increase in oxygen, it also helps improve our sense of well-being. You may have noticed when coming indoors from being outside, you feel a little brighter, more refreshed, and ready to tackle what’s next? Oxygen gives our brains the ability to better function, resulting in increased concentration and a boost to our energy. Next time you feel a little unfocused, burnt-out, or have hit your afternoon “slump” at the office, find a nearby park to take a stroll in. You’ll come back refreshed and eager to tackle the remaining tasks of the day.
4. Natural Light and Fresh Air Help Regulate Your Sleep
Ok, so we’ve covered that more oxygen is pretty much the key to a properly functioning body, so it’s no wonder that fresh air helps us feel calm, happy and relaxed. Natural light is another factor that can help us snag more sleep each night. By getting ourselves out in the daylight (exposure to sunlight first thing in the morning is best), we produce more serotonin. Seratonin is a precursor to melatonin, which controls our sleep and wake cycles. So why is sunlight in the morning the best? Simply because by exposing ourselves to the sunlight during the sun’s cycles, we keep our bodies aligned with the natural cycles of light, better regulating ourselves and allowing our bodies to “wind down” during the evening time to prepare for sleep.
5. Bacteria In Soil Makes You Happier
Quite Literally. Scientists have found a harmless bacteria that only exists in soil that in a way, doubles as an anti-depressant. It has been linked to boosting our serotonin levels. Serotonin is a key player in the regulation of our moods and our general sense of well-being. And because low serotonin levels have been linked to multiple mental health issues, such as depression, we want to naturally boost these any way we can. This same bacteria also helps our immune system by decreasing inflammation, thus helping to alleviate symptoms relating to heart disease or diabetes.
By understanding just how nature can help us live healthier, happier lives, I hope this inspires and motivates everyone to get out there more regularly. No matter the weather, no matter the activity, just spending 5-10 minutes outside can do wonders for our mental and physical health. Won’t you make a promise to take better care of yourself and spend more time outdoors?