The lap of nature is where we are truly nurtured
3 min. read
Humans are (social) animals, and our natural habitat is that of the great outdoors. It’s no wonder our brains crave time spent in nature. Studies have shown that exposure to natural environments boosts our ability to concentrate, improves our mood, and reduces stress.
In fact a very specific study by the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health found that as little as 5 minutes spent near an open green space can help us live better and healthier lives.
Green spaces are proven to be good for our mental and physical health, making us happier and reducing stress.
e could all benefit from having access to the outdoors or a semblance of greenery in our homes or office spaces. This is part of why so many people are choosing homes that are surrounded by open spaces, parks, gardens, and trees. These open spaces then become integral parts of their daily lives.
Spending time in nature is good for your physical health. It’s a fact.
The above mentioned study found that “after five minutes of interaction with nature, participants reported lower levels of anxiety and higher levels of happiness.” When you spend time near nature your cortisol levels—the stress hormone—go down, which makes you feel happier and have more energy. This means living closer to nature can make you a better human being. It can make you kinder, more productive, and more energetic! You’ll also get sick less often when you interact with the outdoors in the sunshine or even just near plants and grass. Time spent with nature can even help us live longer and healthier lives. Adults who walk 30 minutes per day in a green space have lower blood pressure, lower incidence of heart disease, and better overall physical health.
We’re constantly hearing that we should eat more fresh food, get more sleep, and do more exercise—but all of that can be hard when you’re busy! Being outdoors makes it easier to incorporate these healthy habits into your life. Whether you’re meeting up with a friend for dinner at a park, a walk around your neighbourhood in the evening or a power-walk on your morning commute – you can sneak these activities in – all you need is a little green-space close to you.
Nature is good for your inner space too
Logically speaking, most of us expect nature to have a positive effect on our physical state. However, it can also play an important role on our inner well being too. There’s also an enormous mental health benefit to being surrounded by nature, open spaces, trees and greenery, and other people who love nature too. All the studies show it; doctors recommend it; people who live close to parks, trails, and open spaces report higher levels of overall happiness. If you don’t believe us, check out the blue zones – places where life expectancy is the highest. Whether, oceans, mountains, grasslands or village communities, the elements of nature are close to people living in these zones.
Interacting with open spaces has been shown to improve sleep patterns, and enhance creativity, according to the National Wildlife Federation – probably why artists tend to search for places close nature, yet far from the humdrum for their creative capabilities to bloom. Additionally, studies have shown that taking walks in nature can decrease depression and anxiety by as much as 71%!
People who mingle with nature, even in a small urban park or a backyard garden, are more likely to be calm and relaxed than those who don’t. Nature has a positive effect on mental health—it helps treat depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline in older adults. And if we’re all healthier—inside and out—we’re better equipped to do good for others.
No large and open spaces? Don’t worry – just get the green in that space
However, it is not always all about large, green, open spaces. Many of us do not have that luxury. We live in urban jungles with a splotch of green thrown in here and there. If that’s the case, sometimes all it takes is just a creative kitchen garden or a balcony green patch that will do the trick. Why? Well, researchers think that it has something to do with oxytocin—a hormone that’s released when we’re around plants and animals in natural settings. Oxytocin helps us reduce stress, feel better, and just plain be better version of ourselves.
So next time you’re tempted to stay inside and work on your computer or scroll through your phone, consider taking a walk while you do it! Whether you go for a run in the woods or just sit outside for a break from work, if you spend more time near nature, you’ll be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled as a result.
If you feel a little less inclined to live near nature these days, it may be because we devote around 90% of our time indoors. But with all the benefits of being near nature—from improved sleep to better immune functioning—it’s worth thinking about how you can incorporate more green spaces into your life.
You’ll live a better life when you do.