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A person stands in front of a green bush with flowers in it. She is smiling and looking at the greenery.

Why Spending Time in Nature is Vital For Your Mind

Technology has made indoor living easy. It provides hours of entertainment and offers answers to most of our questions.

So, why would you go outside when the world is at your fingertips? We’ve got more than one reason for you.

The outdoors and your mental health are undeniably linked. Ever notice how you just feel good when you’re outside on a nice day? That fresh air, the greenery - it all just feels right. You walk and you can’t stop looking at the colorful sky, the green leaves, the rabbits hopping along.

Nature has an incredible impact on your well-being. It’s vital for your mind, overall well-being, and happiness. But how?

How Does Being in Nature Impact Our Wellbeing?

Recent studies explored the mental benefits of forest bathing (you may have heard of it). Forest bathing simply involves spending more time in good ol’ nature. And researchers indicate that it may help improve depression and mental health.

Nature has a profound impact on how we think and feel. I mean, have you ever heard of an unhappy hiker? Not really… Or at least, the people that truly enjoy hiking never seem to be particularly unhappy. They tend to lean toward enjoying life and even relishing every hurdle that comes with it.

In fact, scientists state that they notice changes in the brain when individuals spend more time in nature. You feel less stressed, less anxious, and generally, happier.

Nature also plays a key role in your circadian rhythm. Melatonin regulates your sleep cycles. Melatonin levels increase in the darkness, which lets your body know it’s time to head to bed.

During the day, melatonin levels decrease due to sun exposure, making you feel more awake. If you are not getting outside enough, your melatonin levels get out of whack. Your sleep cycle is thrown off by not getting enough sunlight. You may feel tired, sluggish, and unmotivated. Your mood might plummet.

There are various signs showing how nature, including the sun, plays a significant role in our lives and mental well-being. Sleep is a crucial piece in this, and nature guides that innate sleep-wake cycle we all have.

But with cities towering up around us, technology taking over our lives, and nature becoming a harder space to get to, many of us tend to lack the necessary amount of the great outdoors that we desperately need (more on this in a second!).

The Mental Benefits of Nature

Perhaps the answer to better mental health is relatively simple: get outside. Spending time in nature can improve your mood and overall mental health. According to experts, just 15 minutes outside each day is all you need to reap the benefits the great outdoors has to offer.

However, if you are experiencing severe mood swings, depression, or other mental health symptoms, it is crucial to seek out professional help. Spending time in nature can complement the help of an expert, but in no way replaces professional advice or treatment.

Nature offers a quiet and peaceful environment to reconnect with yourself and a place where you can allow outside stressors to fade away.

Humans are not inherently programmed to spend long durations inside. As aforementioned, sunlight is important for the regulation of our mood and our sleep. Our body’s biological and chemical processes thrive in the outdoor environment. Mentally, it has vast impacts on our mood and overall well-being.

So, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of it all. What are the exact mental benefits of nature?

1. Nature Decreases Stress

Have you ever noticed when you go for a hike or spend the weekend away in the woods, you feel more relaxed? Your stress tends to melt away and you feel rejuvenated.

In a study by Environment Health Prevention Medicine, researchers explored the physiological changes in participants before and after they walked through a forest (also known as forest bathing).

They further compared city groups and forest groups. The participants were instructed to walk through the city or forest. Researchers recorded the participants’ heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels before and after their walks.

Compared to the city walk participants, the forest walk participants had lower heart rates, blood pressure, and lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Decreased stress levels positively impact your mental well being. Mentally, you feel happier. Physically, you lower your risk of developing dangerous health problems, such as heart disease or diabetes.

Let’s take a step into nature with the healing benefits of forest bathing.

2. Nature Energizes Us

Getting some fresh air makes you feel more alive and more awake. Sunlight helps regulate our melatonin levels and sleep-wake cycles. If you struggle to get up in the morning, start your day outside and it may be the boost of energy you need.

With less stress and more energy, you will feel happier and more satisfied with your life, allowing you to get more out of each and every day.

4. Nature Decreases Feelings of Anxiety

Being in nature promotes positive feelings and decreases feelings of anger, anxiety, fear, and stress. It further encourages a good sleep cycle which is linked to better mental health.

Lack of sleep plays a major role in depression and anxiety disorders. Without the proper amount of sunlight each day, your sleep quality and quantity can take a hit. Sleep better, feel better, and get outside more!

5. Nature Enhances Our Creativity

Spending time among greenery and forestry can get those creative juices flowing. It can inspire you. It allows time for you to slow down and take a break from your day-to-day.

Unlike in the city, your cognitive function and attention span are not stressed to the max. You can dive into a different side of yourself. You can explore new options and ideas.

6. Nature Improves Concentration

In the American Journal of Public Health, researchers explored the benefits nature has on children with ADHD. They concluded that green and outdoor settings tended to reduce symptoms of ADHD and that being outside improves concentration.

Further, it is thought that spending time outside improves memory. It’s no wonder that teachers and schools have started taking education outside. Classrooms without walls have begun to pop up across Canada, with teachers and parents in agreement that spending time outdoors and in nature enhances the learning experience.

3 Ways Your Can Spend More Time Outdoors Today

Alright, but how can you spend more time outside? It doesn’t have to be complicated nor does it have to be a whole day event.

Here are three easy ways you can spend more time in nature, starting today!

  1. Get active outside - Take your workout to nature. Perform yoga under the trees or go for a quick walk through the park each morning.
  2. Read a book or meditate outside - You can even make this one a full-blown picnic. Set it up and relax, get some sunshine and fresh air while you go on a mental adventure.
  3. Walk instead of drive - This is such an easy way to spend more time outside. Find the scenic route to get to the grocery store. If it is quite far, consider biking. These can be wonderful and easy ways to spend more time among the natural background that this great earth has to offer.

Conclusion

Improve your mental health one nature walk, hike, or bike at a time. Reconnect with your natural surroundings.

Live for the moment and disconnect from your daily stressors. Relax and reset. Take control of your mental well-being, and get outside. It’s so worth it and you’ll feel better for it!

Read Next: Nature & Your Body: How the Great Outdoors Impacts Your Health

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

"Believing in yourself is really half the battle," says Krista. Anything is possible and you really can achieve anything you set your mind to, is her motto. Physiotherapist, Piano player, skydiver, yogi, adventure traveler and energetic force of positivity, Krista is herself a (delightful) force to be reckoned with! As... Read More

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