Have you ever been awed by the beauty of a mountain or ocean? Have you ever been excited to see a wild animal in its natural habitat? Have you ever stopped to admire a lovely flower or tree? If so, you will understand how nature can impact our wellbeing.

By nature, we mean the natural world and the nested ecosystems within it. This is the “non-built” world of water, air, earth, vegetation, and animals. Humans are part of nature and interact constantly with it in many ways—on the molecular and the larger systems level.

This interaction is deeply beneficial to humans, especially with the growing prevalence of depression caused by “nature deprivation,” which is largely due to increasing time spent in front of televisions and computers. Apart from meeting some of our most basic needs, nature relaxes and refreshes us.

Nature
  • Enhances positivity
  • Reduces anger and fear
  • Lessens pain
  • Promotes connection
  • Provides our basic needs

Humans find nature deeply healing.  And in turn, to reap maximum benefit, we need to work to heal nature.  Check out the Nature Deprived Questions Below.  And see where you can maximize the benefit of nature, by exercising or spending time with friends outdoors.

  1. I spend time outdoors in natural settings (with trees, shrubs, natural grasses, water, etc).
  2. I exercise outside.
  3. I limit my “screen” time. For example: time in front of a computer or a TV
  4. I have elements of nature in my home and work. For example: plants, natural light, nature sounds.
  5. I have animals in my life. For example: pets or wild animals I enjoy observing
  6. If I can’t go outside, I find pictures, videos, or sounds of nature to help me when I am feeling stressed or depressed.
  7. I try to protect nature by working to reduce my consumption and live sustainably.

Nature reduces our anger, fear, and depression and increases our positive mood and psychological wellbeing. This not only increases our happiness, it makes us feel better physically.

Time in nature also brings us out of ourselves and our narrow concerns and connects us to a larger world where we find beauty and interest. Thus the environment is connected not only to our physical, emotional, and spiritual health, but to purpose and community.

Get outside

So it is clear that it is important to get outside! If you can get to the country, or a lake, that’s wonderful. But even if you live in an urban area, spend time in your yard or find a park or a greenspace with trees and bushes. Go outside on your lunch hour if you can to get a “breath of fresh air” and give your mind a break. You should find more energy for your afternoon mental tasks.

“Green” your exercise

We all know the long list of physical, mental, and emotional benefits of exercise. Exercise improves attention in the young and cognitive functioning in the old. It reduces stress and acts as an antidepressant. And of course, exercise is key if we would to avoid gaining weight, especially as we grow older. But much as we know all these benefits, we can’t always motivate ourselves to exercise regularly.

This is where nature can help. An appealing place to walk or bike can get us off our seats and moving. And once we start, the beauty of natural surroundings keeps us motivated to continue. Studies show that exercising outdoors decreases perceptions of fatigue.

Moreover, exercising outdoors reduces stress and enhances mood even more than exercise indoors. In a study published in Mind, one group of participants walked in an area with woods, grasslands, and lakes, and the other in a shopping mall. The outdoors group had less depression, anger, tension, and overall better mood than the indoor group. A series of studies in Japan showed that walking in forests, as opposed to urban environments, lowered blood pressure and stress hormones well beyond the time of the walk.

So find somewhere with trees, bushes, wild grasses or flowers, water, and other such natural elements and go for a walk or run or bike.  Gardening is another wonderful way to be active outside.

Watch your screen time

According to the Bureau of Labor in June 2012, the average American spends 2.8 hours a day watching television, and that is probably a conservative estimate. In addition, some age groups spend significant amounts of time playing games or using computers for leisure. In all, it means that a lot of our leisure time is spent sitting indoors in front of a screen.

And the risks associated with screen time are not insignificant, including insomnia, depression, and isolation, and increased mortality.

So consider how much time you spend each time in front of a screen (TV or computer). Could you reduce that time to go outside?  You can get even more benefit if you do so with a friend!

Bring Nature Indoors

There are lots of ways to bring small doses of nature into your home to influence your mood, performance, and health.

Get some plants

Bring a bit of nature into your home and work. Plants reduce stress and anxiety and increase attention. In addition, plants can reduce the amount of airborne pollutants. Research done by Bill Wolverton at NASA in the 1970s and 80s demonstrated the air-cleaning powers of plants in the Skylab, biospheres, and homes. So add a few plants to your décor.

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