There’s a reason nature is called the “great” outdoors — it provides mankind with many benefits that lead to feeling great. Besides the enjoyment of connecting with nature, being outside and away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life can be excellent for your physical and mental health.
Many people may recognize that connecting with nature feels rejuvenating, but without really understanding why. If you already go hiking or hunt regularly or would like to get started, take a closer look at the scientific benefits of being out in nature.
1. Improved Mental Health
Spending time outside can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, while also improving mood and feelings of happiness. A study found that participants that went for a 90-minute walk in a natural area reported lower levels of negative thinking. Being outdoors and in tune with nature slows the mind down to lift your spirits as you live in the moment. Negative thoughts and worries may fade away.
Consider involving your family and loved ones in your outdoor adventures. Taking your kids out for a nature walk to share your knowledge about flora and fauna you find along the way or going on a weekend camping trip with friends are some good ways.
2. Decreased Stress
Stress can have mental and physical consequences. For many, the largest stress factors are school or work. Recent research on college students shows how a short time outdoors can help reduce stress — just ten minutes outside in nature helped students feel happier, reducing the effects of mental and physical stress. If you’re in a high-pressure job, take breaks to go to a nearby park to reset your stress levels or consider finding an outdoor job that’s better for your overall well being.
3. Greater Physical Activity
Getting outside encourages more exercise in forms such as biking, hiking, hunting, and running. Besides the wider variety of exercise opportunities, exercising outdoors can have even greater physical and mental benefits than exercising inside. The same scientific research also discovered that individuals were more likely to exercise more often outdoors than in an indoor setting.
If you enjoy going on overnight hunting or camping trips, you may already recognize how carrying your gear in and out of a site or trekking through a remote piece of country can provide a very different workout experience compared to hitting the gym.
4. Boosted Immunity
The improved well being is also good for your immune system. People don’t naturally produce vitamin D, an immune-boosting vitamin. Fortunately, the best source of vitamin D is sunlight. Besides being outdoors for the benefits from sunlight, spending time in nature can greatly benefit the immune system in other ways. There is evidence that being out in nature protects you from:
- Cardiovascular disease;
5. Higher-Quality Sleep
Research says that spending time outside can lead to better, higher-quality sleep, especially in older adults. If you’ve ever gone hunting with your dog and spent several hours outdoors together, you know what “dog tired” means. Your hunting dog and you probably sleep deeper and better after being outdoors. Like water and food, sleep is crucial for good mental and physical health.
Be mindful of your sleep quality. If you find it’s interrupted, consider taking a long walk in the evenings after dinner or making more time for regular outdoor activities and see if the new habits improve your sleep quality.
6. Lowered Blood Pressure
The sun does more than deliver much-needed vitamin D to your body. It also naturally lowers your blood pressure. This may be in part due to how nature affects the body’s stress response by relaxing you, which leads to a drop in your blood pressure. But it may also be because of how sunlight affects blood vessels. Regardless of the reason, being outside is scientifically proven to improve your health.
7. Mitigated Pain
If you suffer from chronic pain, you may not feel like going outside or doing too much physical activity. But connecting with nature in gentler ways that are easier on your condition can help relieve recurring pain. There are ways that chronic pain sufferers can connect with nature without causing further health complications. They include gardening, taking your dog for a walk, or watching over your kids while they play outdoors.
8. Reduced Inflammation
Inflammation occurs when your body is trying to heal itself from toxins. Depending on the severity, inflammation may manifest itself in health issues and diseases, such as allergies, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), and autoimmune disease.
A Chinese research project looked into the connection between outdoor activities and inflammation. Researchers sent one set of participants to camp in a forest to experience “forest bathing” while another group was sent to spend two nights in an urban city. The forest bathers who spent two nights in a woodland environment had lower levels of stress and inflammation than the urban visitors.
9. Enhanced Creativity
Reconnecting with nature is already proven to be excellent for mental health in many ways. Another positive side effect of being outdoors is increased cognitive functions and creativity levels. You’re probably familiar with the effect — while spending time quietly in tune with the environment around you, a great idea or solution pops up in your mind on something that may have been bothering you or left you wondering.
10. Increased Life Satisfaction
Finally, being outdoors is thought to increase overall satisfaction and happiness, and even after a short time outdoors, people report higher levels of satisfaction. You don’t need a scientific study to know that there’s more to life than work and personal obligations. But there is evidence that can be measured that people who spend time outdoors, even if it’s only an urban park, report higher satisfaction levels.
Going out in nature to go kayaking, trekking, exploring, or simply just being part of the environment around you, adds richness to your life. Get back to nature more often — it’s good for the body, mind, heart, and soul.