Have you ever felt a sense of calm wash over you while standing in a lush forest?
Many people feel a deep connection with nature and there is a lot of good science showing that we are more relaxed after spending time outdoors.
Gaia Guy has written before about the scientific evidence to support the idea that spending time in nature is good for our health, but it's always good to have reminder that we should get back out into the woods as often as we can.
The Benefits of Spending Time in Nature
There are many potential benefits of spending time in nature. Here are just a few:
Reduced Stress: Spending time in nature has been shown to have a calming effect on the body and mind. Studies have found that cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress, are reduced after spending time in nature. Being in a forested makes people feel much less stress compared to an urban environment.
Improved Mood: Many people report feeling happier and more relaxed after spending time in nature. People actually feel higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction. Not many pills are going to do that for you. Even just seeing green trees can improve health outcomes.
Better Physical Health: Spending time in nature can also have physical health benefits. For example, taking a walk in nature has been shown to improve cardiovascular health and lower blood pressure. Just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, lowers blood pressure and improves cardiovascular health.
- Improved Cognitive Function: Studies have found that spending time in nature can improve cognitive function, including attention and memory. People who spent time in a natural setting performed better on cognitive tasks than those who spent time in an urban environment. Also, children who spent time in a natural setting had better attention and memory than those who did not.
What Does the Science Say About the Benefits of Spending Time in Nature?
This study compared the effects of spending time in a forest versus a cultivated field on relaxation, mood, and stress reduction in healthy, highly sensitive individuals.
The participants spent one hour in each environment at weekly intervals, and outcomes were measured using questionnaires and salivary cortisol analysis.
Results showed that spending time in a forest during summer had a greater positive impact on mood and well-being, as measured by the CSP-14 questionnaire, compared to spending time in a field.
The POMS questionnaire only showed a significant difference in the subcategory "depression/anxiety" in favor of the field, and there was no difference in salivary cortisol levels between the two groups.
What are the Effects of Walking in Nature on Stress?
Salivary cortisol (Salivary cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress.) concentrations were measured in 74 young male participants who walked for 15 minutes in a forested or urban environment, before and after the walk.
The study aimed to compare the combined effects of walking and environment by analyzing pre- and post-walking data. The study found that walking in a forest environment significantly reduced cortisol concentrations, whereas walking in an urban environment had little effect on cortisol concentrations.
The study suggests that there is a combined effect of walking and environment on cortisol concentrations, and that walking in a forest environment can help to reduce stress levels.
The Positive Effects of Spending Time in Nature on Mood and Cognitive Functioning
This study examined the effects of spending time in nature on mood and cognitive function. The study randomly assigned 60 participants to take a 50-minute walk either in a natural or an urban environment around Stanford, California.
The results showed that the nature walk resulted in decreased anxiety, rumination, and negative affect, preservation of positive affect, and increased working memory performance compared to the urban walk.
FAQs about Spending Time in Nature
Q: How much time do I need to spend in nature to see benefits?
A: The amount of time needed to see benefits from spending time in nature varies depending on the individual and the activity. Some studies have found that as little as 20 minutes in nature can have a positive effect on stress levels, while other studies have found that several hours may be needed to see improvements in mood and cognitive function.
Q: What activities should I do in nature to see benefits?
A: Any activity that gets you outside and interacting with nature can have benefits. Some popular activities include hiking, gardening, birdwatching, and simply spending time in a park or natural area.
Q: Can spending time in nature help with mental health conditions like depression and anxiety?
A: There is some evidence to suggest that spending time in nature can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, it is important to note that spending time in nature should not be seen as a replacement for professional mental health treatment.
Spending time in nature has the potential to provide a wide range of health benefits, from reducing stress to improving cognitive function.
Whether you're taking a hike in the mountains or simply spending time in a local park, getting outside and interacting with nature can be a powerful tool for improving your health and well-being.
So next time you're feeling stressed or in need of a mood boost, consider heading outside and spending some time in nature.