Health benefits of nature

There are many mental health and physical health benefits from spending time outside in nature.

A far-away view of someone riding their bike in a forest at sunrise.
Photo: Pexels/Sem Steenbergen.

In today’s virtual world, many of us find ourselves spending countless hours indoors staring at our devices, which can lead to many poor health conditions. Science indicates that our environment plays a major role in our overall health by impacting our mood and stress levels. Prolonged elevated levels of stress are linked to many negative effects on the mind and body. This can lead to many health issues such as weight gain, heart problems, depression and anxiety. 

The key to improving both our physical and emotional wellbeing could lie in discovering the healing power of nature. According to an article published in the Journal of Behavioral Sciences, “Exposure to nature offers the opportunity to display control through a temporary escape from reality.” In other words, if we simply just change the scenery or step outdoors, it can instantly lift our spirits. Although not everyone may have easy access to green space and nature, there are still a variety of ways to enjoy the fruits of nature.

The following are some tips that may help grow your appreciation of nature: 

  • Practice being mindful. Mindfulness can help us learn to connect to nature better through all five senses. It’s important to take the time to appreciate the sounds, smells, tastes and textures of the earth. Breathe in the fresh air after a rainfall or go to a farmers market for fresh produce. Being mindful can help us relax our minds and enjoy the present moment.  
  • Be curious! Explore the world around you. Most nature experiences are free or low cost. Take a moment to research some local natural wonders.
  • Discover a new outdoor activity! This may include bird watching, gardening, hiking or volunteering. 
  • Go green with your exercise. Finding ways to stay active outdoors can be a great motivator. Exercising in outdoor settings can be more relaxing than indoor exercise. Try changing up your exercise routine to include activities like biking, walking, hiking or snowshoeing.  
  • Bring nature indoors. Guided imagery of nature is shown to be an effective intervention for stress reduction. Practice techniques such as listening to guided imagery of nature or play nature sounds music. Another option is to grow plants inside your home. 
  • Food for thought. Learn how to grow your own food or purchase produce from a farmers market. Join or start a community garden. Better food choices lead to better health outcomes as well. Don’t know where to start? Here are some resources for gardening
  • Learn to appreciate all the seasons! Some may find it challenging being outside during the colder months. Find something you like to do in every season and then dress appropriately.
  • Let the sunshine in your house or get outside. Moderate sun exposure or exposure to natural light can boost your mood by elevating your serotonin levels.

There are many ways to connect to the earth. Exploring the benefits of nature for its therapeutic and healing properties could be the solution to bettering your overall health.

Did you find this article useful?