I recently started a new habit of walking outside and embracing nature every day. My initial reason for incorporating daily walks in my routine centered around improving my cardiovascular and respiratory health. Like most people, I was aware that daily walks in nature had other far-reaching benefits, however, I didn’t realize the life-changing benefits that walking nature would have on my mental and emotional health.
Do you remember when you were a child, someone was always telling you to get up and go outside for a while? I just thought that the motive was to just get the kids out of the house and out of the supervising adult’s hair. Regardless of their motive, I can remember even as a child the rewards of physical exercise and the health benefits of spending time out of the house. Looking back, I realize that I always felt better once I was in the great outdoors.
But did you know that there are many mental and emotional health benefits in getting back to nature?
Here are 5 top mental and emotional health benefits of spending time in nature:
1. You feel less stressed. Spending time in green spaces, whatever the case, has been shown to lower your blood pressure. Your heart beats slower, and even your breathing becomes more even and natural. In short, your body relaxes, and the effects of stress fade away. The good news? The effects are long-lasting. Studies have shown that spending time in a forest on the weekend helps lower stress levels for up to 7 days following the event. Now that is amazing! Even if you don’t have the time or opportunity to walk every day, you can go forest bathing over the weekend and experience the benefits all week long.
2. You feel more alert. If you frequently find yourself trapped in brain fog, the quickest way to clear your head might be to step outside. Finding a green space, a quick walk in a park, or trek out to the country will leave you feeling more alert. If you’re too tired to walk, try eating your lunch outside near green space. Once again, you will feel much more alert when you get back to work.
3. You’re better able to cope. When you’re dealing with depression or anxiety getting outside can seem a little daunting. But if you can give yourself that extra push to get out the door, your body will thank you for it. It’s a proven fact that the effects of both depression and fatigue both dramatically improve when you’re able to spend quality time in nature.
4. Your focus improves. Feeling overwhelmed at work and unable to think? Try a nature break on the weekend. Remember, spending some significant time enjoying nature over the weekend has a long-lasting impact, as mentioned above. So that long hike on Saturday might be what you need to focus better in the week ahead.
5. You become more creative. This one actually took me by surprise. Believe it not, nature inspires you to think outside of the box. A rather interesting study found that people who spent time outside for four days found that they performed 50% better on creative problem-solving challenges afterward.
Bonus Tip: If you or someone you know is confined to the indoors and absolutely cannot get out of the house. No worries. You can bring the outdoors in through the strategic placement of houseplants. It turns out that looking at plants and live greenery also has phenomenal mental and emotional health benefits as well. According to this Washington Post article, just looking at nature can make your brain work better!
With all of these mental and emotional health benefits of spending time outside in nature, it’s no wonder our parents wanted us to get outside when we were kids (and you thought they were trying to get rid of you!). With so much goodness in store for you, isn’t it time you got out of the house?
Be well + prosper,