Spending time outside is good for us and our bodies, but sometimes we forget just how important it is for maintaining proper physical and mental health. And because of our hectic lives and our 9 to 5 jobs, a lot of us think that it’s too much of a hassle to find time to idly prance around a forest. However, according to new studies, it’s a really good idea to spend at least an hour per day outside of your living room, as it can dramatically improve your health. In this article, we focus on just some of the benefits that spending time in nature can have on your body and your psyche.
1. Time in Nature Reduces Depression
There’s no question that struggling with depression can be a serious mental health challenge. Therefore, if you could take steps to reduce your risk of developing depression, wouldn’t you do so? It turns out that one simple thing you can do is to simply spend time outside in nature.
In one study, researchers compared the difference between walking in a natural area and an urban area. Both the natural and urban test groups took 1.5-hour walks in their assigned settings. Depression-related brain activity was lower in the participants who spent time in nature than in those who walked through the city.
Those results shouldn’t be surprising. The incidence of depression and other mental health conditions can be as much as 40 percent greater among people living in the cities.
2. Regular Exercise Helps to Boost Your Mood
Although it’s possible to be sedentary outdoors, as a general rule, you typically get more exercise when you go outside than you do while sitting on a couch. Not only can that help to keep your body in good shape, but it can also help to improve your mental health.
Scientists are still learning exactly how exercise can lift your mood, but it may, in part, be connected to the fact that exercise encourages blood to circulate to your brain. Even though the exact mechanisms aren’t yet understood, it’s clear that aerobic exercise can relieve stress and boost your mood.
Furthermore, engaging in fitness activities can help you feel better about yourself. It can also encourage you to build stronger social connections.
3. Sunlight Invigorates the Mind
When you’re indoors, you don’t get nearly as much bright, cheery sunlight shining down on you as you do outdoors. You may know from experience that stepping outside on a clear, sunny day can serve as an instant mood booster. It turns out that there are scientific justifications for that fact.
Getting plenty of sunlight helps to regulate your body’s melatonin level, which can help you to get an appropriate amount of sleep. Adequate sleep, in turn, helps you feel calmer and think more clearly.
Also, the more you expose yourself to sunlight, the more it boosts your serotonin levels. This chemical is closely linked to mood and happiness. Raising serotonin levels has the potential to combat feelings of depression and to increase feelings of contentment.
4. Exposure to Plants Relieves Stress
If you’re feeling at the end of your rope, simply taking some time to touch base with greenery can help you regroup. One study evaluated two chemical blood markers that can be used to analyze a person’s stress level. The markers were noticeably lower in people who spent time in nature.
Another study indicated that just looking at pictures or videos of natural scenes can help your body recover from stress more quickly. Of course, that’s not to say that you should substitute images of nature for the real thing.
5. Lower Risk of Cancer
Now this one may surprise you – a team of researchers in Japan has recently come up with some pretty convincing evidence that spending time in nature can boost your body’s natural cancer-fighting mechanism.
You see, your body is full of so-called NK (natural killer) cells whose only purpose is to protect your body against dormant cancer cells. The research ultimately showed that a team of individuals, after spending some time in a forest lodge, the level of these cells in the test subjects’ bloodstream jumped significantly.
So, please, get outside more often having time for yourself to wander in nature, feeling better, calmer, and more at ease.
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