Reasons You Should Interact With Nature More
If you live in the city and only sometimes make it out into a forest, or a beach, or a desert, or the mountains, you’ve probably had this odd sensation: the feeling that you never wanted to return to the city again. That’s a perfectly normal thing to feel. It isn’t because you hate your life in the city (or maybe you do—that’s for you to say); it’s because your body loves to be near nature. It evolved to want to be near nature. Historians may argue about when humans started standing up right or whether or not cavemen were omnivores until they lose their voices, but one thing is for certain: if you look at the entire spectrum of time, humans have spent barely a second living among concrete. And we still need to be near nature. Here are important reasons to interact with nature on a regular basis.
It may improve your sleep
You’ve likely heard of light exposure therapy for treating depression and sleep conditions. Rather than buying the artificial light, go straight to the source. Studies have found that office workers with windows and access to natural light sleep better than those with less or no windows.
It could prevent allergies
If you are fortunate to not yet suffer from allergies, you may be able to keep it that way by getting outdoors. Studies have found that children raised on farms develop fewer allergies than those raised in the cities. Regularly exposing your body to those natural elements like pollen and pine could reduce its reaction to them.
You might recycle more
We know we should recycle, drive eco-friendly cars and be gentler on the earth. But it can be hard to really understand what we are doing to the planet if we don’t really see the planet under all the concrete. Studies have found that people who spend a lot of time in nature feel more connected to and empathetic of the planet, and more motivated to take care of it.
You’ll play well with others
Research has found that, after spending time in nature, people feel more willing to cooperate with others in sustainable efforts like keeping up community gardens. They also feel an enhanced sense of social value. If you struggle to work with others in your career or life, try spending time outdoors.
You could have a healthier baby
Pregnant women who spend time in nature tend to deliver babies of a healthier weight than those who aren’t exposed to fresh air. Pollution has, sadly, been linked to underweight newborns.
You’ll feel happier
Do you have a tendency to fixate on the negative? To obsess over the things that aren’t going your way? Research has found that spending time in nature can reduce your habit of focusing on the bad in your life. Even a short time spent outdoors can help you see the silver lining.
Your creative juices will flow
Even if you go to the coffee shop, your office, the gym and your apartment every day, these places are all, in some way, quite similar. Nothing offers the novelty and diversity that nature does. That could be why research has found that being outdoors excites the brain and lets it wander places it typically doesn’t. Going outdoors could help you finally crack your idea for that book you want to write.
You’ll feel less stressed out
Studies have found that the sounds and sites of nature can relieve stress. In one study, participants who just watched videos of trees felt less stress. Even looking at a poster of nature can relieve stress, but nothing is quite like the real thing.
You could prevent obesity
People who live in nature tend to be less obese than those who live in the city or far from nature. It makes sense if you think about it; you have more opportunity for things like hiking and walking, and are far away from fast food restaurants, drive throughs and movie theaters.
It may improve mental health
One extensive study on ecotherapy found that being in nature, even if that just means being part of a community garden, can greatly improve mental health. One once-suicidal individual gives credit to eco-therapy for saving his life.
You may heal quicker
One fascinating study found that hospital patients with a view of trees from their room were released on average a day earlier than those with no nature view. The patients with a nature view also needed fewer pain medications and had fewer post-surgery complications.
It could boost your self-esteem and sense of well-being
When you’re in nature, you aren’t exposed to billboards, commercials, social media (leave your phone at home for the hike, folks) or really even many people. All of the stimuli that trigger insecurities, a sense of urgency, a sense of falling behind and a need to compare yourself to others or conform to societal norms fall away. That is quite powerful when you think about it.
It may encourage you to act
There is something very humbling about being in nature. Touch a giant oak tree and you’ll realize that tree has been there since long before you were born and will be there long after you’ve gone. It has seen thousands of people, busying themselves, worrying about bills and relationships. You’ll realize how short your time is on this planet, and feel motivated to go after the things you want. In a healthy way, nature reminds you of your mortality.
You’ll have more energy
If you feel lethargic and can’t seem to find energy no matter how much you sleep or caffeine you consume, you may just need to get outdoors. Your core could be asking you to reconnect with the ultimate source of energy: nature. Research has found that spending even a short time outdoors can help people feel more energized.
It’s good for your heart and blood pressure
One study on the Japanese therapy called “forest bathing” sent one group of participants to the city and one into the forest. The study found that people spending time in the forest had lower blood pressure, healthier heart rates, and lower cortisol rates than those in the city. And those changes happened rapidly.