After weeks of being cooped up at home, we can all use a little more fresh air. As we have all endured quarantine and stayed closer to home, our routines have become more and more limited—a trend that has ripple effects on both our physical and mental health. But going outside has more to offer than just a change of scenery—increasingly, greater exposure to nature and the outdoors has been shown to be associated with better overall health and well-being. It boosts our immune systems, lowers blood pressure, and—in a time defined by its uncertainty—could be just what we need right now. Having some contact with nature can reduce chronic stress, and reduces symptoms of depression, low self-esteem, anger, and can improve overall mood.
According to research, our bodies physically become calmer while in nature. Our heart rate, muscle tension, and production of stress hormones reduce—meaning we’re able to process our surroundings in a less agitated state, and in turn feel more at ease. This sense of calm as a result of experiencing nature is especially helpful during today’s widespread sense of collective hardship.
By experiencing the novelty that taking a walk in nature has to offer, we’re better able to blow off some of that steam. It helps us to create space from the negative emotions associated with being confined to our homes.
Productivity and Creativity
Given that a number of us are now expected to work at home, maintaining focus and productivity are more crucial than ever. However, given the circumstances, this can prove to be more than a little daunting. Spending time in nature can act as a reset button of sorts, allowing our brains to focus in a new way and return to our tasks with a renewed sense of energy. Taking a few minutes to step away from our daily routines can help us to gain that clarity of thought, improve our concentration, mood—and all this is helpful for promoting optimal productivity and creativity.
To make our time spent in nature more beneficial, we have to practice developing that calm sense of focus. Society promotes multitasking, like doing work while listening to a podcast or watching a show and at the same time exchanging text messages but we’re actually more effective if we limit stimulation to one source at a time. Try taking a walk outside without your cell phone, or without your headphones plugged in. Take slow deep breaths, allow your eyes to wander, listen to the sounds around you. To keep your mind stimulated, embark on a new route each week. Discover the things you never once noticed right in your own neighborhood.
It’s accessible to all
While not everyone has the ability or proximity to large, open swaths of nature to take walks outside, there are still ways to incorporate it into your everyday routine. For those that aren’t able to physically connect with a large outdoor natural space, there is research that tells us that visual exposure to nature—even if we aren’t physically engaged with it—has beneficial effects on our mood and well-being. This means looking out the window and taking particular notice to what it is you see. Mindfully connecting to each detail, even in small pockets of nature like a house plant or indoor herb garden. La Use screen time to your benefit by looking at images or videos of nature to create downtime.
When we allow ourselves to embrace all nature has to offer, we quiet that internal chatter and make space for better physical and emotional well-being….and we need that now more than ever.