The Healing Benefits of Mother Nature
By Contributing Author, Ainsley Lawrence
There’s something about the fresh air, the crunch of the earth beneath your feet, and the smell of the outdoors that helps many of us to feel happier and more grounded. A lot of people seek the outdoors to find peace, exercise, and to gain more experiences that don’t live inside four walls.
Some like to hike and camp in the mountains, while others just enjoy a simple walk around the neighborhood. It can feel good to get out of the house and spend time outside, but does getting out in nature really benefit your health?
In a lot of ways, it does. By spending more time in the great outdoors, you increase your exercise, boost your mental health, and even improve your vitamin D levels. However, just make sure you’re easing into your nature experiences if you’re new to outdoor adventures.
The Benefits of Exercise
Spending more time in nature will mean your body will be moving more, which is great for moderate exercise. Even walking, biking, or swimming can give you exercise benefits like reducing your risk of developing blood clots, reducing inflammation, as well as strengthening your muscles.
Being outside gives you the option for how intense you want your exercise to be, whether you choose to mountain climb or take a stroll in a park. Whatever you do, your body will be moving more than it will indoors.
Exercise also improves heart and lung health while improving your strength and stamina.
Of course, you can also exercise at the gym, but getting out in nature not only offers a boost in exercise but also in positive experiences. In fact, one study showed that jogging outside as opposed to the gym is up to twice as helpful for your mental health.
A Holistic Mental Health Aid
Because you tend to move more when you’re outside, you also get the mental health benefits of exercise. Our bodies release endorphins as a result of exercise, which makes us feel happier overall. In addition to that, being outside can reduce stress and increase mindfulness, which all offer a holistic mental health boost.
Getting outside can be a natural aspect of treatment for many people with mental health struggles, including postpartum depression, anxiety, etc.
Changing your environment, moving your body, and unplugging while getting out in nature can feel refreshing and peaceful for the mind as well as the body, which is why nature can benefit your mental health.
Making a Change in Your Free Time
Habits take a long time to form. For those who have gotten into the habit of spending their free time indoors, not exercising a lot, or getting stuck in a stagnant routine, it can be hard to get into the habit of spending more time outside. However, doing so can work to create a new habit that will increase your overall health. If you want to spend more time in nature but you don’t feel drawn to the idea, try a few different activities until you find one you like.
Some options include:
- Easy Activities: Walking, whether in your neighborhood or in nature, allows you to go at your own pace. Camping is a relaxing outdoor activity that involves as much or as little physical activity as you want.
- Moderate Activities: Moderate activities increase your heart rate but won’t be too difficult to accomplish. Swimming allows the whole body to work hard and is also low-impact. Hiking will push you, and you can choose an easier or harder hike to accommodate your skill level. Biking is great exercise, and different trails will offer their own activity level, as well.
- Harder activities: Some people prefer the difficulty of harder outdoor activities to fill their free time, though they aren’t for everyone. Backpacking involves a lot of strength and outdoor knowhow. Running sounds easy enough, but can put a lot of stress on your joints.
Soaking in the Vitamin D
It’s obviously a lot easier to feel sunlight on your skin when you’re outside, which is another reason why spending time in nature can benefit your health.
Vitamin D is good for your bones and your immune system. At the same time, vitamin D deficiency can cause depression, which is an aspect of seasonal affective disorder.
Too much sunlight can cause a problem as well, so make sure to wear sunscreen. And there are also holistic remedies for sunburns if you happen to stay in the sun too long.
Easing into the Nature Experience
Spending more time in nature can help your health by increasing your exercise, boosting your mental health, encouraging more active habits, and allowing you to soak in more vitamin D, but it’s helpful to ease into nature in order to stay safe.
Some people enjoy living in nature full-time, but it’s important to be aware of the limitations of solitude, technology, and emergency care associated with wilderness living. Even hiking, running, kayaking, biking, or camping in remote areas involve some of these limitations.
If you haven’t been to an area before, use a guide or do your research. Always tell someone where you’re going, pack the appropriate gear, and bring a first-aid kit.
Start out in a popular area, and as you get more comfortable, you can start branching out into more remote nature experiences.
Getting outside and spending time in nature is a great way to increase your mindfulness and take a break from reality for a while. Walking among the trees, breathing in fresh air, and smelling the soil have a way of resetting us in a way. Moving your body, relaxing the mind, soaking in the sun, and learning to spend free time in the outdoors work together to benefit your health in a holistic way.
It doesn’t take much to go outside and walk around the block or to do a hike, and the health benefits are worth the effort.