Research reveals that environments can increase or reduce stress, which in turn impacts our bodies. What you are seeing, hearing, and experiencing at any moment changes your mood and how your nervous, endocrine, and immune systems are working.
The stress of an unpleasant environment can cause you to feel anxious, sad, or helpless. This, in turn, elevates your blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension and suppresses your immune system. A pleasing environment reverses that. Here are some health benefits of spending time in nature:
It helps you be social
When you get outside your house, it’s not only Mother Nature you see. You also connect more with the people and places in your community. Human contact and a sense of community are important to your mental health. Plan a walking route to a friend’s house and then to the park to do some exercise. Finish up at the local coffee shop. You might be surprised how good it makes you feel.
Boosts immune system
The restorative effects of nature can help reduce the body’s stress response, which seems to help improve overall health and immune response. But there’s also some evidence of other immune-boosting factors at play when it comes to spending time outdoors.
While we breathe in the fresh air, especially in forests, we breathe in phytoncides, airborne chemicals given off by plants with antibacterial and antifungal qualities. As we breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells which fight infection.
It lessens anxiety
Even a simple plant in the room, or pictures of nature, can make you feel less anxious, angry, and stressed. But it’s better if you leave that room and go out. Exercise is good for anxiety, too, but it’s even better if you do it outside than inside a gym. Sunlight helps keep your serotonin levels up. This helps raise your energy and keeps your mood calm, positive, and focused.
It helps you get exercise
If you spend too much time inside, then it’s possible that you’re not moving around enough. If you make getting outside a goal, that should mean less time in front of the television and computer and more time walking and doing other things that put the body in motion. Research shows that people who exercise outside are likelier to stick to a future routine than those who exercise at the gym.
Between working, riding in cars, and living in urban environments, humans have become increasingly disconnected from nature. Even so, it only requires a little extra intention to incorporate more nature into our daily lives. From a lunchtime stroll or visit to the local park to a weekend in the woods, any time spent in nature can help you experience the many benefits to your mental and physical wellbeing.