Get Into Nature: Why Our Bodies Love Being Outdoors
Let’s take a moment and think about when you were a child. Do you recall the distinct smell of freshly mowed grass on an early weekend morning? What about the feeling of the harsh ocean hitting your knees- with you continuing to wade into the water, freezing but excited nonetheless? Do you remember how it felt running around the neighborhood park, breathless and exhausted, but still wanting five more minutes on your favorite slide?
We don’t have to look any further than precious children to understand the joy of nature. But it turns out, being outdoors isn’t just fun. It’s pretty fantastic for our health. Let’s explore the top benefits.
Natural Energy and Attention Boost
Do you keep reaching for another cup of coffee to get you through the day? Before pouring your next cup, consider swapping the excess caffeine and getting some fresh air.
Spending just a few extra minutes outside can yield an organic boost in focus and creativity. In fact, research shows that creative problem-solving and cognitive function abilities surged nearly 50% after people spent a few days exploring the outdoors.
Think about it. We have to be more alert when we’re in nature. We’re more aware of our surroundings and more attuned to how we feel. Compared to our cushioned offices and homes, there are far more variables in the great outdoors.
However, this wakefulness isn’t a bad thing. If we’re running on auto-pilot throughout the day (which so many of us are), it can be the change our minds and bodies crave.
Ever wonder why so many of us love lounging on the beach? Or picnicking at the park on a warm, spring day? Why do people tend to prefer running on the road- as opposed to a treadmill?
It’s because nature can reduce stress naturally. And you don’t need to hike treacherous mountains to enjoy the impressive benefits. Studies on hospital patients showed that even having access to a window overlooking into a forest helped combat symptoms of depression.
Nature brings a sense of calmness and stillness. In a world buzzing with fast cars, smartphones, and television commercials, the outdoors remains raw and untethered.
And it’s no secret that reducing stress can benefit both our psychological and physical health. From lowering blood pressure to preventing heart disease to fighting off symptoms of anxiety and depression, it’s one of the best goals we can have for promoting mind-body wellness.
Promotion of Generosity and Kindness
Do you want to be more giving and altruistic? Nature might be able to offer you that extra nudge to open your heart or wallet.
Research has shown that spending time outdoors can lead to greater helping behaviors. Many experts chalk up this phenomenon due to awe. Awe refers to the deep sensation of connection with the world around us. It can happen during an exciting milestones like your wedding day or birth of a child. But, it can also occur during moments of inspiration- like when you’re standing on top of a beautiful mountain or witnessing a stunning sunrise.
Awe evokes a deep sense of gratitude. When outdoors, it can inspire a deep and profound perspective of our planet- and the many gifts it has to offer.
Awe may even counteract feelings of selfishness and instead promote benevolence. When we feel happy, we want to share our feelings of joy with others. As a result, we tend to be more kind, patient, and giving.
Reduced Inflammation And Stronger Immune System
Excess inflammation is associated with a variety of health conditions that include autoimmune diseases, cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease.
As it turns out, nature is one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to reduce inflammation. One study found that students who spent time in a forest had lower levels of inflammation than students who spent time in the city.
Moreover, spending more time outdoors can also boost your immune system. Several reasons attribute to this phenomenon. For one, exercise supports immune health. Spending time outside naturally promotes fitness and movement. Additionally, stress plays a role in immune system functioning. The more that we can lower our stress, the happier (and healthier) our bodies tend to be.
Final Thoughts On The Benefits Of Being Outdoors
Our bodies and minds love being outdoors. It’s where we are in our natural states. It’s where opportunities feel limitless, and it’s where we most experience genuine freedom and joy.
Honor yourself by making the commitment to spend more time exploring our beautiful world. Take a hike this weekend. Bring your lunch outdoors. Dust off that old bicycle and go for a ride. Your physical and mental health will thank you.
At Willow Counseling, we understand the invaluable benefits of nature. We offer an outdoor support group for anxiety in Nashville. The goals are multifaceted: we want you to enjoy the joys of movement, being in nature, and receiving healthy peer support. We also want to provide you with education so you can learn and implement coping skills to manage your anxiety. Sign up for our next group today.
Willow Counseling, Nashville, TN
Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.