Have you ever noticed that you feel refreshed and renewed after spending time outdoors? That’s because our health is actually deeply interwoven with the natural world. In order to truly feel at our best, then, we need access to nature: a park, the mountains, the ocean. This can be challenging if you live in a big city, but little bits of nature are available to all of us if we look around.
If you’re feeling stifled by urban life or just wondering how to get the most out of nature, here are 4 ways to engage more deeply with the earth and the health benefits you can experience by connecting with nature.
- Nature’s A Stress Buster: When we’re exposed to nature, we experience an improved mood, including less depression, anxiety, and stress. It can even help with emotional recovery from traumatic or upsetting experiences. That’s why we see that in experiments in which subjects were shown videos of accidents, we see quicker recovery among those subsequently shown nature videos. The power of nature is so incredible that even videos of it can transform our emotional state.
- Wilderness Experiences Fight Addiction: Many drug and alcohol rehab programs integrate time outside into their treatment approach. That’s why you find many centers in the mountains or attached to large forested areas. Time outside can help reduce boredom, a major relapse trigger, while also reducing the feeling that rehab is something akin to prison. This is part of why private, nature-based rehabs are often more successful than small, urban rehab programs.
- Nature Produces Physical Changes: Spending time outside can help lower your blood pressure, reduce muscle tensions, and even moderate the production of stress hormones. It can also help soothe physical pain and discomfort after surgery. Even putting plants in hospital rooms can benefit patients and improve recovery.
- Nature Makes Us Feel Connected: In an era when we are increasingly disconnected from each other and the world around us due to the use of technology and the decline of open spaces, nature can help us build connections with the world and each other.
Work with ecological programs has been used as alternatives to urban detention and wilderness engagement is now the foundation for preschool programs. In both children and adults, this increased engagement with nature has also helped build broader social and community connections.
Nature may not be a formal treatment for anything, but it’s a powerful supplemental factor in our overall wellbeing. And while screens alone may not be responsible for many modern health problems, in conjunction with our loss of connection to nature, they may be part of a larger problem – what has been causally termed Nature Deficit Disorder. Getting outside can change our lives, heal our wounds, and aid distressed and struggling minds. For true health and well being, it’s time for us all to get back outside.