Going for hikes, enjoying sunsets and spending time on the beach—many of us have had the opportunity to experience these outdoor activities, and we’ve probably felt happier and uplifted as a result. This is because spending time outdoors and with nature is vital to our overall wellbeing.
On a basic level, nature helps to increase our feelings of vitality, happiness and energy, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. It found that being in nature increased one’s sense of vitality, happiness and energy. No matter whether one was alone, with friends or participating in an activity, the effects of nature were positive across the board.
Urban vs Natural Settings
Image Credit: Jace Grandinetti
Studies have shown that living in cities can be more stressful than living in rural areas as a result of their limited outdoor spaces. For example, city dwellers have a 20% higher risk of experiencing anxiety disorders and a 40% higher risk of mood disorders as compared to people in rural areas.
Nature offers a wide variety of stress reducers and can enhance overall mental well-being. Even visiting an urban park can have positive effects and reduce total levels of stress.
Another study, published in Frontiers of Psychology, suggests that urban settings also have an overstimulating effect, leading to cognitive fatigue. To contrast, the stimulation experienced in nature is “softer” and coupled with feelings of pleasure, leading to lowered stress levels. For these reasons and more, escaping the city now and again can have major health benefits.
Nature and Physical Activity
Image Credit: Barrel On
It makes sense that spending time outdoors often encourages us to get active. Exercise produces endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals in our brain that contribute to mood and energy. Walking, hiking, biking, skiing, tennis—the list of options for outdoor activities is extensive. Beyond being fun, these activities offer the benefit of reducing stress, boosting physical health, enhancing concentration and improving sleep patterns.
Nature and Stress Reduction
Image Credit: j / f / photos
One study suggests that a 90 minute walk in a natural setting can reduce cycles of rumination: the process where we turn thoughts over and over in our brain. Rumination is often associated with the negative thoughts people with anxiety and depression dwell on. While walking in an urban environment can be effective, the study suggests that experiencing green spaces or natural settings produces greater results. Considering this, next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious about something, change up your surroundings and experience the beauty nature has to offer.
Put simply, there are so many ways that spending time outside in a natural setting improves our lives. So get outside, find a beautiful, green space and take in a deep breath of fresh, clean air. Your mental and physical health will thank you for it.
Feature Image: lublud