Canaan, CT – Americans often turn to technology when they experience boredom, isolation, or dissatisfaction, but stepping away from screens and into the great outdoors may be the best remedy for a low mood. Here are just some of nature’s profound effects on emotional health and overall well-being:
- Alleviates stress. By venturing into the natural world, people can leave deadlines and other worries behind them. Green spaces evoke a sense of tranquility while encouraging connectedness with nature and other living beings – both of which can prevent people from dwelling on negative feelings, such as loneliness. In 2019, researchers discovered that spending just twenty minutes in nature can reduce levels of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. Nature also has a mood-boosting effect, which can help to prevent the onset or worsening of substance use and mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Because nature offers a welcome escape from the pressures of everyday life, researchers from the magazine Science Advances have highlighted the need for more green spaces within cities.
- Sharpens the mind. Nature can have a positive impact on brain functioning as well. Researchers claim that looking at artificial stimuli found in urban environments can lead to sensory overload. Natural stimuli, on the other hand, are less cognitively demanding and can even have a restorative effect, helping people feel more energized and focused. By prolonging attention span, natural settings also bolster creativity and problem-solving skills.
- Strengthens physical health. According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity raises the risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Team sports, nature walks, and other outdoor experiences promote a social, active lifestyle. A 2018 study in the journal Environmental Research found that greater exposure to nature is linked to multiple physical health advantages, including increased cardiovascular functioning as well as reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Fosters personal growth. Nature invites people to reflect on their thoughts and emotions, allowing them to cultivate greater self-awareness. Camping, hiking, and other experiences in the natural world likewise push people out of their comfort zones, helping them to tolerate discomfort and develop self-confidence. Even those who shy away from adventure can reap the benefits of nature by turning to more relaxing outdoor activities. “Gardening can build character because it gives people a sense of purpose and stewardship over the natural world,” says Sheree Surdam, Wellness Assistant Manager at Mountainside in Canaan, CT. “By spending time in nature and trying something new, people can broaden their perspectives and become the most authentic version of themselves.”
When the modern world feels too dizzying to navigate, stepping outside can provide a well-needed break from routine. Replenishing the mind, body, and spirit through nature is much more rewarding than searching for answers on a smartphone. By enabling holistic healing, nature can nurture.