We know we feel good when in nature but what other health benefits are there to being outdoors? Studies have found that our stress, blood pressure and resting heart rate are all significantly lower during a 15 minute nature walk than during a 15 minute city walk. The average American spends at least eight hours a day looking at an electronic screen and when we get home stressed and frazzled, we often try to unwind in front of the TV. Research has shown that this only makes us more moody. Since we spend so much time in a technology-driven society, we become more aggressive, distracted, depressed and overweight.
David Suzuki, an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster, recently issued a challenge for people to get outside in nature for 30 minutes a day for 30 days. Preliminary results showed that people slept better, felt calmer and were less stressed.
Here are some other benefits to spending time in nature:
- Boosts your mood and experience more positive emotions;
- Increase in white blood cell activity;
- Improves cognition;
- Relieves anxiety and depression;
- Boosts empathy;
- Decrease in blood pressure and heart rate;
- Increases creativity;
- Improved memory and attention span;
- Higher self-esteem;
- Social bonding with like-minded people.
We have an attraction and connection with nature. Yoshifumi Miyazaki, a physiological anthropologist and vice director of Chiba University’s Center for Environment, Health, and Field Sciences, located just outside Tokyo, believes that because humans evolved in nature, it’s where we feel most comfortable. Some believe that humans are biophilia which suggests that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. That we subconsciously seek a connection with the rest of life. For many of us, adding elements of nature to our living spaces can provide similar benefits for those times we can’t make it outside. Try adding some plants, an aquarium or a picture of a landscape you admire. Whether you head outdoors for an adventure or lose yourself to quiet observation near a stream, time in nature can provide some amazing health benefits.
“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” ~Ben Okri