Have you ever felt super stressed, overwhelmed or even a little down and then you stepped outside in nature and boom, those feelings vanished? It’s not a coincidence. Spending time outdoors is relaxing, calming, and grounding. Your senses are flooded with the many sights and sounds of nature. Your nervous system begins to calm itself. But the benefits to spending time outside goes much further than that.
Time outside has many mental and physical health benefits. It’s one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to reap health benefits and improve your overall well-being. Read on to discover how you can nature hack your way to improved and optimized health and have fun while doing it.
The best way to get vitamin D is from the sun. When the sun’s rays hit your skin, a protein in your skin converts the UVB rays from sunlight into the active form of vitamin D. From there, your body uses it for a vast number of functions, which include improving your immune system, heart, brain, and bone health while also helping to decrease inflammation. Considering that many people are deficient in vitamin D, make it a point to get sunlight. Protect your skin when spending extended time outdoors by wearing sunscreen, protective clothing and hats and optimizing the hours/times you spend in the sun.
**To note, it’s helpful to have your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor, and supplement as needed under a physician’s supervision. **
When you’re outside, you are more likely to be physically active. Whether this is taking a walk in the park, hiking, biking, or swimming at the beach or in a lake, it is hard not to get some form of exercise while outdoors. Much of modern-day life involves spending extended amounts of time inside, with an astonishing number of hours in front of screens (up to 10 hours, on average for an adult). Making it a priority to get outside and engage in some form of physical activity has numerous physical and mental benefits, leaving you happier, healthier, and more fit. Who doesn’t want that?!
In today’s chaotic world, having more focus may be just the mental edge you never knew you needed. There is evidence that time spent in nature increases cognitive performance. Improvements in cognitive function include improved attention, better focus, increased memory and recall, and creativity. These are just several ways in which nature benefits your brain health. So, time to unplug, get outside and harness the restorative power of nature, even if just for a quick 20-minute walk daily to boost brain function.
It’s no secret that spending time outdoors in nature makes us happier. There are numerous studies to date that note the psychological benefits of time outdoors, noting that participants were happier and had a greater sense of wellbeing. Stress hormones and anxiety levels drop, and participants reported fewer symptoms of depression. Take a walk in the woods next time your mind starts to spiral and breathe in the fresh air.
Time outside in nature contributes to improved physical wellbeing. Blood pressure dips, heart rate is reduced, less stress hormones circulate in the body and muscle tension begins to ease. In addition to this, metabolic, respiratory, cardiovascular, and respiratory function improve as well. In short, you start to feel physically better by being in nature.
Evidence has shown that spending time in nature boosts the immune system. For example, researchers in Japan have studied forest bathing, the practice in which participants spend time experiencing the forest through all their senses. Notably, the practice of forest bathing has been correlated with an increase in white blood cells called natural killer (NK) cells. These NK cells function to control and stop the spread of cells infected with a virus or tumor cells by directing killing these cells and working to stop tissue damage. If a crucial part of our innate immune system is directly affected by our time spent in nature, making an effort to spend time outdoors becomes an easy trade off to reap the benefits of a boosted immune system.
In a world that demands us to keep looking in and down, spending hours of our day looking at screens, finding opportunities to get outside to maintain and improve health has become more necessary now than ever before. The physical and mental benefits to spending time in the great outdoors are more compelling as evidence mounts in the favor of unplugging and stepping outside.
One must be intentional in finding ways to fit outdoor time into the busy pockets of their days. Nonetheless, the benefits to your wellbeing and mental health cannot be overlooked.
You deserve to feel your best, so what goal can you set today to start stepping outside more often to experience nature and all the positive effects to your overall wellbeing it has to offer?
I’d love to hear, so share your favorite outdoor activity!