The (Really) Great Outdoors: How spending time in nature improves almost everything
Warm weather and long days mean Summer is finally here! The beginning of a new season is a great time to take stock of not only how, but also where we spend our time. We’ve all heard that getting out in nature is good for us, but what is surprising how many different ways it can help. What benefits can you expect to receive as you head outside this Summer?
- Get sharper! Time in nature boosts concentration and performance. In one study, people that looked at flowers for just 40 seconds before performing mundane tasks improved their accuracy. Another study showed taking a short nature walk before cognitive testing improves scores.
- Get happier! People who spend more time in nature report feeling positive emotions more frequently, and studies of people with depression showed improvement in patients’ moods after time outside. In addition, the level of the stress hormone cortisol decreases after time spent in natural landscapes.
- Get healthier! Spending time in nature lowers our blood pressure and decreases our heart rate. Getting outside can improve our immune function, sharpen our vision, and decrease our sensation of pain.
- Get inspired! Time in nature improves creativity and problem solving ability.
- Get connected! People that describe a strong connection to nature report fewer feelings of social isolation, and study participants exposed to scenes of nature scored higher on measures of trust and generosity than those that looked at urban landscapes. Researchers think that the feeling of being a part of something bigger than ourselves encourages empathy, altruism and gratitude.
For an even bigger impact, try going off the grid or unplugging devices. People who spend time in more remote areas or digitally disconnected seem to get more benefits from their experiences outdoors. Or try combining time in nature with other activities that are known to boost mood: like exercise, meditation or socializing with friends. Seem overwhelming? Even spending as little as 15 minutes in a city park has been shown to be helpful. So, grab your shoes, open the door, head on out and enjoy!
– Dr. Rebecca Durkin
Have fun getting outdoors!