Being in nature is one of the most underrated activities for your health. In fact, many scientists have been able to associate the nature-exposure with a variety of health benefits–ranging from improved moods to production of vitamin D production and its associated immune-boosting effects. Read on for more benefits of nature for health and longevity!
Sunshine and spending time in nature have been scientifically shown to boost mood. Sunshine increases serotonin levels in the brain, which boosts mood and reduces depression. This is one reason why people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) commonly have their symptoms get better when they go outside during the day.
Being in nature also improves immune system function by strengthening the body’s natural defenses against infections, inflammation, and cancer. Spending as little as 15 minutes in a natural environment (not a man-made park), can increase energy, vitality, and overall feelings. Research has shown increased life expectancy in seniors, increased cancer-fighting cells, increased immune system function, and reduced negative thought patterns.
Nearly 99% of people are deficient in vitamin D. Many modern dietary recommendations are to reduce fat intake – but vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means you cannot absorb it without fat! And it’s naturally found in fat-containing foods like eggs, fish, meat and dairy. The best way to get your daily dose of vitamin D is soaking up some sun rays. For most adults 10-15 minutes a day in midday sun can provide you with the vitamin D needed to maintain optimal health. You may need more exposure if you have darker skin tones and less exposure if you have fairer skin tones. Aim to expose as much bare skin as possible and do not use sunscreen. Taking vitamin supplements does not compensate for the lack of sun exposure, though can be helpful to bring up very low levels.
Nature provides a great source of probiotics (helpful bacteria in your gut), which plays a major role in your immune system. Some of these bacteria can become part of your microbiome, others simply pass through and give your immune system an upgrade while in transit. Studies have shown that those with greater access to natural lands and plant diversity of wild plants (not yards and houseplants) experience fewer allergies and skin conditions.
Being outside also increases energy, vitality, and general feelings of well-being. Spending time outside reduces the risk of allergies and skin conditions as well as all the negative thought patterns that can come along with those health problems. In addition to these personal benefits, there are also societal benefits of spending time in nature. Studies have shown that more green spaces in urban environments can reduce crime rates, lower stress levels, improve focus in schools, improve learning abilities, increase creativity levels (ability to come up with new ideas), and better overall moods among the residents.
- Depression and other mental health issues are consistently increasing in prevalence. Nature has been found to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
- Plants also give off chemicals (phytoncides) that have been found to reduce blood pressure and stress hormones.
- Getting exercise outdoors can help people to be less stressed.
- Being in nature also reduces the likelihood of exposure to environmental toxins (when in unaltered environments).
- Reduced exposure to artificial blue light and increased exposure to natural light that can help reduce eye strain and improve circadian rhythm regulation.
- Spending time in nature can also help us to sleep better at night and deal with stress.
Nature is a gift we can’t get enough of. Whether it be camping, hiking, or just spending time in the backyard with your family, nature has been proven to keep us healthier and more resilient when faced with stressful situations. In our fast-paced world where screens are on every street corner, being out in nature can help us feel refreshed and less stressed. It also helps that this will likely lead you to live a longer life! So if you want to take care of yourself better for now and later down the road (or have someone else do it), spend some quality time outside today!