Have you noticed the recent increase in articles explaining the benefits of being in nature? We sure hope so. There are good reasons as to why so many of us tend to feel down after spending a whole day indoors, or feel energized after taking a long walk outside. How much time we spend outside impacts more than just our tan lines and vitamin D production, it directly affects every aspect of our wellbeing.
Numerous scientific studies have recently confirmed that spending time outside actually creates a unique kind of effect; most people refer to it as feeling more alive. The truth is human beings are part of the animal kingdom. As such, being in nature is where our hearts find solace and our minds find peace. And yet, most Americans now spend 93% of their time indoors.
This essentially means that on average, we spend just half of a single day outdoors per week throughout our entire lives. What’s worse is that the number is expected to grow, and so are the many wide-ranging side effects of nature withdrawal. As a matter of fact, we have gotten so bad at spending time outside, doctors are now recommending we aim for at minimum of 5 minutes a day.
It seems like a mounting amount of evidence shows that NOT being in nature is detrimental to our mental and emotional health. According to Rob Jordan, writing for Stanford News: “More than half of the world’s population lives in urban settings, and that is forecast to rise to 70% within a few decades. Just as urbanization and disconnection from nature have grown dramatically, so have mental disorders such as depression.”
He goes on to explain that those who reside in big cities tend to have a 20% higher risk of anxiety disorders as well as a 40% higher risk of mood disorders than those who live in rural areas, which is understandably pretty shocking. Furthermore, it seems that those who reside in big cities are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia; a horribly debilitating illness if left untreated, so there is also that unpleasant fact. Substance abuse statistics, however, are not reportedly impacted by the phenomenon.
Rejoice. There are still plenty of ways for people living in big cities to combat nature withdrawal and improve their overall health. Spending time in parks, investing in house plants, and moving to greener neighborhoods have all be shown to be beneficial. But so are activities like going to the beach, taking a hike, or spending a weekend camping. So, next time you have some time to surf the Internet, play a video game, or watch some TV, trade in that activity for some fun in the sun.
People seem to realize that throughout history, some of world’s most influential artists and writers have relied on nature to inspire their art and literary endeavors. Yet scientists are only now beginning to understand just how much being in nature positively impacts our creativity. Evidence supports the notion that those who spend more time outside tend to experience noticeable improvements in their ability to think outside the box.
Think about it like this: Our daily lives are full of distractions, from car horns blasting outside our windows at 3am to the constant ringing of our phones. We are always engaged in a struggle to keep our focus, prevent our tempers from rising, and making sure our stress doesn’t overpower us. This all takes a lot of cognitive effort, which leaves us feeling drained. Luckily, studies suggest that being in nature provides us with the opportunity to mentally unwind.
When we spend time in nature, there’s a good chance we may be inclined to pay attention to low-impact sounds, like those of moving leaves or singing birds. As a result we may experience more cognitive clarity and less unwanted mental chatter. And, we may feel increasingly energized by the physical exercise, while being soothingly calmed by the beautiful scenery.
In other words, being in nature is significantly less taxing than in our technologically driven world. The less distractions we have, the easier it is for us to improve cognitive function. There’s also reason to believe that the color green, which is abundant in nature for most of the year, also acts as a creativity booster.
Have you ever wondered how HOMER was able to memorize all of the words to the Iliad, without ever writing them down? Yes, there’s the whole “practice makes perfect” aspect of repetition, but there was also something else that was helping him along. We have to remember that Homer was a traveler. And, since emerging research showing us that simply walking in nature may help boost our memory, we can only assume his travels assisted him in remembering the legendary songs.
According to Michigan News: “U-M psychology researchers Marc Berman, John Jonides and Stephen Kaplan found memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent after people spent an hour interacting with nature.”
The researchers concluded that going outside, even in freezing temperatures, can help improve focus and create cognitive boosts that are comparable to the effects of engaging in meditation practice. Interestingly enough, simply looking at an image of a natural scene can have positive impacts on memory.
At Merkaela, our goal is to provide you with comprehensive information pertaining to your overall wellbeing. We strive to give you the tools you need to take control of your lifestyle in every sense of the word. The healthier you are mentally, physically, and emotionally, the more you’ll be able to achieve in your life. And, you can start this beautiful journey by being in nature for a bare minimum of 5 minutes a day.