Think about it: how often do you find yourself getting up to go for a walk to have a screen break, or to clear your head when thinking about how to solve a tricky situation? Chances are you will do this every so often when working, or figuring out a family circumstance – it doesn’t even have to be a serious issue, either.
Many people find going outside can help, although it is usually a lot easier to pace around the kitchen or carry out a minor household chore than going to your local nature reserve or park. Often, the weather can affect our decision to go out or not, too.
However, is it worth the effort to get outside? There are many reasons why it is, and you should consider doing so to improve your wellbeing. Here are just some of the incentives why it should become part of your regular routine
1. Nature can work as a natural antidepressant
There are studies that suggest ecotherapy is an effective method to protect your mental health. You may also have heard ecotherapy be called either nature therapy, green therapy, or earth-centered therapy. In fact, it was suggested in one study by the University of Essex that the people taking part experienced a 71% reduction in depression when outside. It also demonstrated that this was reduced by only 45% for those who opted to walk in a shopping center, rather than a natural landscape.
To further back this up, a study found there was decreased activity in a part of the brain that’s thought to be linked to depression. The study, published by the Proceeding of the National Academy of Science, asked 38 participants to take a walk in a natural area for 90 minutes to see if this helped in reducing depression. This was then compared to those who walked in a high-traffic urban area. For the latter, there was an increase, instead.
Going outside can reduce your risk of depression, although it won’t be a cure for this. However, spending time in nature can be a good addition to your treatment if you have depression.
2. It will make you want to exercise more
Working out is a lot more fun when you do this outside: there’s even research that suggests taking part in outdoor exercise is better than in the gym. So next time, you think about working out, why not consider the benefits of doing so outdoors? Grab your walking boots and a reusable travel coffee cup to enjoy a warming drink along the way (it can stay warm for up to 6 hours!) or a refreshing cold drink to keep properly hydrated and make the most of exercising outdoors.
3. Green space may reduce stress for children and the elderly
Many people aim for stress relief in the urban areas of our world. Yet having access to places such as playgrounds, gardens, parks, and other green areas like these can help boost the health of both the elderly and children. Both of these groups are vulnerable to some challenges that can be found with urbanization.
4. It can improve problem solving and creativity
It isn’t a coincidence that taking the time to be in nature can lead to finding a workable solution to a problem, or a surge in creativity. There is a cognitive advantage you can get from being within a natural environment, according to 2012 research published in PLoS One. More research – this time in Landscape and Urban Planning – found being exposed to natural green space resulted in reduced anxiety and an improvement in complex working memory span.
5. It might help us age gracefully
The Journal of Aging Health published research that showed how taking a daily trip outside could help older people to both stay healthy and to function for longer. Those participants who spent time outside each day at the age of 70 had, at the age of 77, fewer complaints with sleep problems or aching bones – plus other health-related issues – than those who didn’t go out daily.
Older people may also find they get benefits from group-oriented hobbies or exercises that take place outside. There is research available that shows social skills and confidence can improve in stroke and dementia patients through gardening – and can even boost dexterity and mobility.
6. It makes us happy
There’s a shift towards more positive moods when spending more time in nature, according to environmental psychologist Judith Heerwagon in The Huffington Post. She says the theory is that we respond well to those things that are good for us – although we don’t know why this happens with our bodies. We like items that are positive for us and our survival, so it’s thought that’s why trees and other natural elements can boost our moods.
7. It can boost your immune system
This is one of the vital health benefits of spending time in nature. There are several scientific studies that have shown people have had improvements to their immune functions by spending time in surroundings with trees plus natural flora and fauna. Plants emit phytoncides: airborne chemicals that not only protect them from insects but also benefit people. Spending time in nature can lower stress hormones, too, which leads to a better mood and affects other factors to boost your own immune system.
8. Your internal clock could be reset
Being in nature can help you sleep at night. If you have numerous days where you sleep late, your sleep cycle is disrupted and can lead to bad consequences. One study stated spending one weekend in the woods can reset your inner clock – or circadian rhythm. Participants who went camping fell asleep and woke up early compared to those who didn’t, and could fall asleep sooner and for longer.