A blooming body of research places evidence of the psychological, physiological, and emotional benefits of immersing ourselves in our natural world.
As someone who is close friends with depression and anxiety, (dont be jealous)I can say that there is absolutely no greater natural mood booster than hanging out in nature! For me, it looks like long walks or hikes. Sometimes I take my book outside and just allow myself to be. I also love watching my cats enjoying the sun.
I have always found this fascinating, this “I can conquer the world feeling” after a walk. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods has said that of the almost 1000 studies on this topic “point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but its a have-to-have for physical and cognitive function.”
Nature in and of itself according to Positive Psychology generates a feeling of awe. When we are in awe (an emotion characterized by astonishment) we are existing in the present moment. Think back to the last time you thought WOW this is magnificent! Do you think you could be both marveled and anxious at the exact same time? No. This is also known as flow and is one of the happiest states we can ever be in. It means we are so focused on an activity that we are not thinking about the past nor stressing about the future. We are being exactly where the universe wants us to be. Here!
A research article on pnas.org, found nature to reduce rumination (the act of thinking and thinking and more thinking) which is highly linked to depression. In the same article, they share how experiencing nature also decreases the activation in the area of the brain responsible for mental illness.
Nature soothes our nervous system. The bird’s sweet songs, the ruffling of leaves, the warm sun or snow-capped mountains are all nature’s medicinal soal soothers. This has been proven by EEG tests. Our heart rate slows, our digestion functions optimally and our breathing slows down. We feel safer and it’s a break, especially for those living in cities, which is over 50% of the overall population. We all need to slow down and take a well-deserved break but those in urban areas have higher stress levels. When the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, it reduces cortisol levels that are heightened in the fight, flight, freeze, and fawn modes. In addition, our blood flow rises to the amygdala which manages our stress levels.
Nature Improves Human Relationships- When we are in a good mood we are automatically less aggressive and judgemental and more collaborative and compassionate. A positive frame of mind generates tranquility and for some even confidence. It makes me more confident for sure. Walking alongside your significant other releases endorphins that promote better sexual intimacy too. We are more apt to be vulnerable in conversation when we are walking side by side versus across from each other. This builds deeper bonds. All of these strengthen all of our relationships!
Nature Keeps us Healthy- Those who spent two hours a week in touch with mother nature (even spread out through various days) experienced a clear positive effect on their health. This study was led by Mathew White of the European Center for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter. It also lowers our blood pressure which intern improves heart disease. THIS IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH FOR WOMEN IN THE US.
Our relationship with nature is vital. Get out there!
Look around you, be intentional about seeing your surroundings, and acknowledge tiny details. Maybe a ladybug is relaxing dog’s nose, or a ray of sun flickering on the surface of a pond? Listen attentively. Can you hear the thunder on your way down the trail? What does the shape of the cloud remind you of? Which of these flowers can you associate with playing as a kid? Last night my son and me noticed a wonderful smokey scent in the air that reminded us that we are in Autumn, our favorite season. Such a small gift from mother nature, yet it put a smile on both of our faces.
Here’s to making it a point to become one with nature way more often!
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