We talk a lot about the benefits of ancient wisdom here on this site, and the idea of being out in nature being beneficial is no exception. From the Japanese tradition of Shinrin-yoku to the Nordic tradition of friluftsliv, spending time outside of the house and amongst the trees and sun and soil has been valued and recognized as essential by many cultures. Whether it’s going for a nature walk or hike, a relaxing day at the beach, or even doing active outdoor sports like mountain climbing or kayaking, time in nature can do wonders for your mind and body. Let’s explore the many benefits of spending time in the great outdoors!
Nature’s effects on the body
Spending time outdoors is good for your body. Take the sun, for example. It’s pretty well known that adequate sunlight is necessary for vitamin D production. Sunlight on your skin triggers the production of vitamin D from cholesterol. Low vitamin D has been connected to heart disease, depression, diabetes, and certain types of cancers. Spending time outdoors also may help better your quality of sleep. First of all, sunlight can help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm. Second of all, if you’re outdoors doing anything mildly active, you’re giving your body a good workout which can promote better sleep come nighttime.
Speaking of being active outdoors, even a simple walk goes a long way toward helping you stay active, which has many health benefits in and of itself. And fresh, crisp outside air is beneficial as well. Worried about pollution? Studies suggest indoor air is much more polluted than outdoor air, but if you’re worried, head for the hills and take a nature walk or hike in the woods to get away from it all.
Nature’s effects on the mind
Think back to the last time you took a leisurely nature walk outdoors, or even just stopped to admire the scenery anywhere in nature. Take a moment to really focus on how you were feeling. Odds are, you may have been feeling any one of the following: calm, peace, tranquility, vigor, and more. All these positive emotions are no coincidence. Greenery has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and to enhance positive mood and wellbeing.
Let’s go back to talking about the sun. There are many known mental health benefits of sunlight. Sunlight filtered through the eyes and retina has been shown to increase levels of serotonin, which improves mood. In fact, major depression with seasonal pattern, formerly referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is triggered by decreased sunlight and one of the best treatments for this disorder is light therapy (or phototherapy) that simulates sunlight.
So go outside! Take an after-dinner stroll. Take advantage of the benefits of nature and fresh air. Spend a day discovering a new hiking trail in the summer. Take the kids out sledding in the winter. Gather a group of friends and try a new outdoor sporting activity together. You’ll be making great memories, and doing wonders for your mind and body!