Tap Into Nature’s Positive Benefits

06/05/20

 

What if you could improve your mood, reduce stress or feelings of anger and quickly feel more relaxed with one simple change? Would you make it? Although it’s easy to overlook the small things we can do that make a big impact in our lives, spending time outdoors is one you shouldn’t miss. 

A recent study in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research showed that just 20 minutes in nature can improve your well-being. The importance of getting outside to our mental and physical health can’t be overstated!

It boosts your energy.

Sunlight has been shown to increase the production of serotonin, the hormone responsible for a positive mood and higher energy levels. When you’re feeling sluggish, studies have shown that simply getting out in nature helps you feel more alive. If you’re reaching for that extra cup of coffee, opt for a brisk walk instead. You’ll get all the boost – without the crash.

It encourages exercise.

Here’s one good thing about the great outdoors – there’s no gym membership or special equipment required! Being outside often means going for a walk, doing yard work or playing with the kids – all activities that get your heart pumping. If you’re outside most days, you’re likely on your way to meeting The American Heart Association’s recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Regular exercise has also been shown to lower a person’s risk of depression and anxiety by releasing endorphins that enhance our sense of well-being while taking our mind off negative thoughts and feelings.

It calms your mind (and lowers your blood pressure).

Listening to the calming sounds of nature has been associated with relieving stress, improving mood and boosting feelings of happiness. If you’re dwelling on problems and finding it difficult to stop, a walk in the woods may help keep your mind from constantly ruminating and bring some peace. And if you’re feeling uninspired, a change of scenery may be just the thing you need to counteract most adults’ many hours of screen time.  

What’s more, being in a green environment has also been shown to lower the stress hormone cortisol, which has been linked to a number of health conditions including increasing your heart rate and blood pressure.

It strengthens your immune system.

Spend some time outdoors and your immune system will thank you. Sunlight encourages your body to produce vitamin D, a mineral associated with a healthy immune response, or the way your body fights off colds and viruses. People with strong immune systems are less likely to get sick, which is especially important as we look for ways to keep the corona virus at bay.

Getting adequate vitamin D also helps your body absorb more calcium and phosphorous, crucial aspects of bone density and bone health.

It helps you sleep.

Being in the sun or outdoors for at least 15 minutes every day helps regulate body temperature and keep your body’s circadian rhythm in check. This is the internal clock that alerts our bodies to wake up and when to go to sleep. Early morning sunlight has been shown to be the most effective in helping your fall asleep and stay asleep longer.

How can you maximize your time outdoors? Plan a daily walk or run with family members, go on a bike ride around your neighborhood, spend 10 minutes meditating on a porch or other greenspace, or schedule walking phone calls to catch up with friends. No matter how you choose to spend your time outside, your body and your mind will thank you.