A connection with the outdoors is vitally important to your mental and physical health. Science is proving that time spent outdoors can have a calming, rejuvenating effect on your mental and physical health.
Being in Nature Boosts Energy: Research in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that being surrounded by nature increases physical and mental energy. U.S. and Canadian psychologists conducted a series of studies asking participants to visualize certain images (including ones of nature), walk in outdoor and indoor environments, and look at various photos (including ones of natural elements)—and report how they were feeling in all situations. In each situation, men and women reported an increase in vitality when around natural elements (both visually and when physically surrounded by nature). This may be why, say the researchers, people are intrinsically drawn to natural settings.
Spending Time Outdoors Helps Us Age Gracefully: People age 70 or older who spend time outdoors every day report fewer sleep problems and aches and pains than those who stay indoors, according to a study published in the Journal of Aging Health.
Walking Outside Increases Creativity: Many people notice improved creativity after being active outdoors. And that feeling is backed by science: In one study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers found that walking out of doors helps boost inspiration and inventiveness.
Natural Surroundings Improve Concentration: Australian researchers found that taking 40-second “micro breaks” during the day to look at a green, natural environment can improve concentration—and performance—while working. The research, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, emphasizes the importance of taking nature breaks (going for a walk or even looking at a photo of a natural scene), particularly when stressed or mentally fatigued.
Nature Hikes Reduce Anxiety and Depression: A Stanford University study found that walking for 90 minutes in nature showed—through brain scans that track blood flow through the brain—decreased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with anxiety and depression. This study, the researchers say, shows that nature actually has the power to change the brain.
Nature Helps Recovery and Reduces Pain: Researcher Roger S. Ulrich, director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M University, conducted a study on patients who underwent surgery. He found that patients who had a view of trees healed faster, had less pain and had shorter hospital stays than those who had a view of a wall.
Seeing Nature Leads to Greater Work Satisfaction: Office workers with a view of nature outside their windows liked their jobs more, had less stress and greater work satisfaction and were healthier, according to research published in the journal Public Health Reports.
Contact with Nature Leads to Less Crime: A study published in the journal BioScience found that the greater the amount of greenspace in a community, the less crime that area had—even in areas with lower levels of education, income and other socioeconomic factors.
Walking in Forests Boosts Immunity: Japanese researchers wanted to explore the potential immune benefits of shinrin-yoku—so they studied the activity of people’s natural killer (NK) cells, a component of the immune system that fights cancer. They measured the cells before and after forest bathing. These natural killer cells were significantly increased after spending just a day out in nature. And the boost in immune cells remained for seven days after the trip ended.
Living Near Trees Makes Us Healthier: Researchers at the University of Chicago found that, controlled for socioeconomic factors, just living in areas with lots of trees can make a person healthier, both psychologically and physically. Lead researcher, Marc G. Berman, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, believes these health benefits could be the result of better air quality (trees help filter out pollution) and the fact that having trees nearby may encourage people to spend time outdoors.
Even the Color Green Has An Impact: Another study from the University of Essex found that viewing the color green—found abundantly in nature—results in fewer mood disturbances and less exertion when exercising (e.g. it makes exercise seem easier).
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