For most of us who enjoy nature, we are intuitively quite aware of how beneficial it can be to our health to spend all the time we do in the great outdoors. It can be difficult to explain why we feel happier, healthy and generally enjoy life more when we spend more time outside, especially in nature. However, studies are beginning to uncover some of the many scientific explanations to why we benefit so much from time outside. That’s why it’s so important we look after the environment including our tree’s and natural reserves.
Spending time outside usually means access to fresh air, good oxygen and, if you’re in nature rather than in an enclosed urban environment, also away from pollution. This means that for each breath you take, you oxygen intake is much higher than if you were indoors, or even outdoors in the city. Oxygen is crucial for cell reproduction and growth and so more oxygen also means better health. It is food for our cells, and also food for our mind. Fresh air helps us stay in a relaxed state of alertness, which decreases stress and improves mental focus and concentration.
Spending time in nature also usually means that the technologies available in modern society are scarce. It becomes a safe haven away from email, text messaging, phone calls and all the pressing ways in which people communicate with each other electronically and that can probably wait, but are still treated as urgent. This excess stimulation of the nervous system can be very taxing on our adrenal glands and activate stress hormones and the fight or flight reflex, increasing stress overall, without a true threat being present. By spending time in nature, we allow our nervous system to reset itself and return to parasympathetic mode where the nervous system is less reactive and more receptive.
Outdoor time in nature will generally give us more access to sunshine. Even in northern countries in the winter, the same is true. Spending at least 15 minutes outdoor in the sun can do wonders for our mood thanks to vitamin D absorption. Increased vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis, seasonal affective disorder, depression, chronic pain and a number of other conditions. In cases where it cannot be prevented, increased vitamin D still has been shown to improve longer term health outcomes. Rather than taking supplements, or even in addition to taking supplements, spending time in nature is the best way to get lots of vitamin D the natural way.
Better focus on the bigger picture
Spending time outside often give us a sense of expansion. The horizon is further, we can see beyond cubicle walls, the walls of our rooms and indoor spaces, beyond the grind of traffic and the bumper ahead of us, beyond the screens that occupy most of our waking hours. Spending time in natural both literally and metaphorically gives us something further to set our sights on. We can expand our view onto a deeper horizon and focus on the bigger picture.
Sense of connectedness
Being surrounded in nature can also remind us that we are part of something bigger than our small lives. Shifting the focus away from ourselves, our stories, our dramas, our problems, our successes and our struggles, being in nature reminds us that we are in a very big world of interconnected beings that were all there much before us, and that will continue long after we are gone. By reminding ourselves of this world we are a part of, we can increase our sense of connectedness with the vastness of the universe, and remember that we are but one small part of this infinite whole.