The mere thought of watching a majestic sunset, tranquil river, or tree-lined forest may bring about a sense of joy. But do you make time to spend in nature? Juggling a partner, children, aging parents, work demands, or health issues, among other things, may make adding one more item to the already jam-packed schedule seem like too much. However, research has proven that spending time in nature has quantifiable long term and short term mental and physical health benefits, thus putting “nature time” on your “to-do list” is a worthwhile investment.
The health benefits that come with time spent in nature are abundant and include:
- Lowering of blood pressure. In recent years, the Japanese have adopted “shinrin-yoku” or “forest bathing” as preventative medicine. Studies have found that individuals who spend time in nature rather than in the city environment ultimately produced lower blood pressure. Well-Controlled blood pressure has a positive impact on every organ system within the human body.
- Boosting the immune system and preventing illness. Historically, humans spent their time outdoors, but in the day of manmade environments, individuals spend more time exposed to viruses and bacteria that can put their health at risk. Germ infested areas like computer keyboards, doorknobs, refrigerator handles, and toilets are now a routine part of everyday life. Stepping outdoors and away from it all in the middle of your workday, even for a 5 or 10-minute walk, will reap you some benefits.
- Decreasing stress and improving mood. Studies have shown that time spent in the sunlight fuels the body with much-needed vitamin D, lowers cortisol levels and can reduce the impact of depression. Some research suggests that even 10 minutes a week in the garden can lessen symptoms of depression with four to five brief visits in nature each week as optimal. Don’t have a garden? Then find a community garden where you can immerse yourself in the benefits of nature.
- Enhancing sleep and improving energy. Time in nature typically results in more physical activity, which is good for your heart and your brain. Exercise tends to lessen cognitive fatigue, improve overall energy, and can lead to a better night’s sleep. You don’t need to go far from home. Go for a stroll on the sidewalk, a run on a trail, or head out on a hike.
- Promoting social health. Whether you are gardening and interacting with your neighbors or going on a bike ride with a friend, nature brings people together creating a deeper sense of community. A feeling of belonging to something bigger than ourselves tends to fuel the soul.
For some, life obligations and time constraints may make a routine trip to the forest a rarity, but nature surrounds us everywhere. Finding a little nature greenery nearby your home is perfectly suitable to fill the gap. The next time you think about skipping a nature walk, time at the park, or a trip to the mountains, think again. Carving out even small bits of time to enjoy nature just maybe the free prescription needed to fuel your mind, body, and soul and ultimately be the recipe for a longer and healthier life.
© Donna Cardillo (DonnaCardillo.com). All rights reserved.