Many of us have long thought of nature as something that soothes, restores, and heals, as we know by experience spending time in nature makes us feel great.
That’s why it comes as no surprise that researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School point out that exposure to nature benefits overall health. But how exactly does it affect your body and mind? Read on to find out about 5 surprising ways nature can boost your well-being.
It improves the quality of your sleep
A growing body of research suggests that the outdoors help reset your circadian rhythm, also known as your sleep cycle or body clock. Because we live in a digital environment, our sleep cycle has been greatly affected by our exposure to light from tech gadgets. This is very worrying, because if your body clock is out of sync it can cause several health problems like hypertension, obesity, and depression. A study published by Current Biology tried to find out how our bodies’ internal clocks change without electronics and only natural light. And sure enough, the researchers found that spending a week in nature being exposed to only natural light can reset your body clock. This shows how important it is that we dedicate time to get away from our digital devices and hectic lives, and instead spend more time outdoors. After all, as we mentioned in a previous post on ‘Sleep & Health’, the former is imperative to maintaining the latter.
It helps fight depression
There is growing evidence that suggests that exposure to natural environments can be associated with better mental health. Studies have found that outdoor walks in nature help to decrease levels of anxiety and bad moods. Walking in a natural environment as opposed to an urban environment has been proven to reduce rumination, which is our tendency to repetitively think of our sadness and what’s causing it. This shows that the more time you spend interacting with nature, the lower your risk becomes of getting depressed.
It lowers your cortisol levels
Nature offers a superior therapeutic setting with beautiful, peaceful, and calm views, and thus, can effectively reduce stress, which is often measured through your cortisol levels. And the numbers don’t lie — a post by Parsley Health notes that your cortisol levels can drop by up to 20% simply by being surrounded by nature. And the effects of low cortisol levels are profound, as studies have shown that it can lead to reduced blood pressure and a more regular heart rate. It also helps reduce anxiety and other mental health conditions. So, if you’ve been feeling stressed and anxious lately, it might be time to lace up your sneakers and visit the nearest park.
It boosts your immune system
Exposure to nature doesn’t only help you relax, it can also boost your immune system. Nature has the ability to enhance the functioning of the body’s immune system, as it contains chemical and biological agents such as phytoncides from plants that can help boost immune functioning. In addition, stepping out in the natural light helps your body to produce more Vitamin D, which is essential for the immune system to function properly, helping the body to produce more antibodies.
It enhances creativity
Are you in a creative rut? If so, it is important to take a walk in nature. Studies have shown that quality time outdoors can result in a boost in creativity and problem-solving skills. In fact, Thrive Global’s contributor Dhaval Patel shares how nature doesn’t only help you overcome creative blocks, it also increases brain function and boosts your memory. So, if you’re looking for a creative boost, head on out and spend some time in nature.
When you’re feeling lazy and are struggling to push through with that hike or walk, remember that being surrounded by nature does wonders for your body and mind. And it doesn’t matter if it’s 15 minutes or for a whole day, what matters is that you make time for being in nature whenever possible.