The research is in: the closer you live to nature, the healthier you are likely to be, both physically and psychologically. Studies show that you recover faster from stress when you spend time in nature or “green spaces” as they are called.
Why are Green Spaces Helpful?
Any number of factors could account for the benefits of green space. One theory suggests that in typical everyday life our attention is directed and channeled in ways that result in an overload of our cognitive and sensory circuits. In contrast, nature offers an endless supply of diverse interest and wonder.
Time spent in a natural environment engenders a calming and restorative effect that leads to improvement in mental clarity, attention span and mood elevation. The natural light of the outdoors leads to more vitamin D, an increase in serotonin production and a lower incidence of “the winter blues.” In addition to the benefits breathing fresh air, spending time outdoors naturally lends itself to all forms of exercise and subsequent improved muscle strength. There is even evidence that exposure to nature improves our ability to reflect constructively on a life problem.
Encounters of the Natural Kind
What are some examples of encounters with nature? Involve yourself in any activity that exposes you to elements of nature, grand or small. For example, try one of the following next time you need a little boost:
- Extended or recreational wilderness excursions
- Hiking in an open space or a nature preserve
- Playing in a backyard or a city park
- Sitting on a bench under a tree, or raking leaves
- Riding a bike or walking through your neighborhood
- Laying on the grass, looking at the clouds or watching the birds
- Watching nature scenes on TV
The overwhelmingly positive power of nature is so strong that simply looking at pictures of scenes in nature (as opposed to urban scenes) produces an increased sense of well-being!
In Victorian times, it was a common practice among nature lovers to go “tree bathing,” which referred to the practice of taking long walks in wooded areas, surrounded by the vivid green beauty of the trees. Contact with nature enhances the mind, body and the spirit. Make yourself a promise to visit green spaces as often as possible. Go bathe yourself in the beauty of the forest. Take a walk with a friend.
Written by Kathleen Weeks, MS, MA, LLP. Visit www.mielkeandweeks.com for more information about Kathleen.
Have you had an uplifting experience with nature that you’d like to share?