Ever notice how a walk in the woods gives you a natural “high?” (Forest bathing is a real thing, people!) It’s no accident that connecting with nature helps makes us healthier, happier humans.
We realize that not everyone has hiking trails in their backyard, but even if you live in a hyper-urban environment and can’t skip town often, some research suggests that just gazing at photos or paintings of nature can have a calming effect. So it’s worth investing in some scenic artwork and hanging photos of your favorite outdoor spots around your home and workspace. Plus, public parks still count as exposure to greenness.
If you have limited mobility or are short on time, you can still reap many health benefits by being mindfully present in nature for just 10 minutes (whether that’s in a garden, your backyard or an outdoor space near your office).
Here are 9 compelling reasons to spend time outside, away from screens and beeping, buzzing devices:
- Get happy – Hanging out in nature, especially when combined with exercise, may help ease feelings of anxiety, depression and negativity. Being close to water (i.e. a walk or jog by the beach, lake or pond) can increase the benefits even more!
- Relieve stress – Lower cortisol levels (the body’s stress hormone) translates to better mood and overall health. And since stress has been linked to weight gain and increased risk of diabetes, the more you can do to manage your stress levels, the healthier you’ll be!
- Reduce inflammation & improve immune function – Research suggests that people who spend time in nature may have lower levels of inflammation than those who don’t. While more research is needed, some evidence even supports the idea that time spent in nature can help reduce cancer risk by stimulating the body’s production of anti-cancer cells.
- Improve sleep & daytime energy – Getting your bootie outside can be physically and mentally rejuvenating. So the next time you’re in need of an energy boost, instead of grabbing coffee or a nap, try taking a short walk around the neighborhood park. After making this a habit, you may find you no longer need that nap, as time spent in nature has been linked to higher quality sleep.
- Support heart health – Getting outdoors often translates to increased exercise, which helps reduce blood pressure and heart rate. These positive effects are also likely supported by better mood and lower stress levels.
- Boost brain function – Research suggests that walking in nature has an added beneficial effect on memory and the ability to focus. Likewise, a study found that people immersed in nature for four days showed heightened levels of creative problem-solving. So, in addition to getting regular outdoor exercise, if you can get away for a long weekend, the benefits may be even greater.
- Increase vitamin D – Vitamin D plays an important role in immune system functioning and mood, and also impacts weight, appetite and metabolism. Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common in the modern world, so getting outside for some sunshine may be exactly what the doctor ordered.
- Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes – While more research is needed, the lower risk state may be due to the positive effects nature has on stress, mood, weight, cardiovascular health and inflammation. These can all potentially play a role in the development of diabetes.
- Breathe easier – If you’re luck enough to live near open, green spaces or in a more rural environment, you’re more likely to get outside for a walk, hike, bike ride or some gardening. It may also mean that you have less pollution compared to more urban environments, since trees and plants help improve air quality.
Yes Health is a low-cost, weight loss and diabetes-prevention program committed to helping everyone live healthier, happier lives.