If you have you ever sat beside a mountain stream and felt the stress in your life slowly start to melt away, it’s probably not news to you that time in nature can have a tremendous impact on how we feel.
What might be news, though, is just how much research there is out there demonstrating the mental and physical health benefits of contact with nature.
It makes sense, when you think about it. As a species, we evolved spending much of our time outdoors. It wasn’t until relatively recently that we started spending the majority of our time isolated from nature. But today we have become largely disconnected from the very environment we evolved in.
In Japan there is a tradition called Shinrin-yoku, or “forest-air bathing,” which basically involves hanging out in forests as a form of relaxation. Recently, a study set out to assess its impact on people.
The study found that spending time in the forest reduced hostility and depression, and increased “liveliness.” An abstract of the study sums it up this way:
“This study revealed that forest environments are advantageous with respect to acute emotions, especially among those experiencing chronic stress.”
Even better, it found that the more stressed you are, the greater the positive impact of forest-chillin’.
Interesting, yes, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Study after study (after study, after study) show the positive impact of nature on our mental and physical well-being.
Being in nature, seeing nature out your window, even seeing nature in pictures has been shown to:
Help people recover from stress more quickly
Reduce aggression and anger
Increase feelings of vitality
That’s not to mention the positive effects of exposure to nature (sometimes through windows, other times through indoor plants), like:
Greater job satisfaction
Greater creativity and openness
Fewer physical ailments
Faster recovery after surgery
Greater longevity / Reduced mortality rate
Honestly, there are so many positive effects to increasing our nature connection that it almost seems too good to be true. But there is an insane amount of research out there that all points again and again in the same direction.
Here are some simple ideas for bringing more nature into your life:
Go for a hike on the weekend.
Go for a picnic.
Go for daily walks in a natural environment. If you can do it by the water, that’s even better.
Spend frequent time in a neighborhood park.
If you have a natural view out your window (trees, grass, plants, etc.), make a habit of pausing and soaking it up.
Buy plants, both for your home and your work space.
Surround yourself with pictures of natural beauty (an inexpensive way to do this might be to buy a calendar and get an 8×10 frame, cutting the pictures down to size and rotating them on a regular basis so they don’t just become part of the background).
Bottom line, if you want to reduce the stress you feel, find a way to up the nature quotient in your life.