Within the past several weeks, multiple research papers have been published related to the effects of nature on people. I don’t know about you, but when I read that time spent outdoors has been shown to have real mental health benefits, I wasn’t surprised. Of course, I’m a gardener and I don’t know if there’s anything as soothing to my spirit as time working with my plants. One research paper found that the mental health benefits kick in when you are outside in nature for 120 minutes in a week. That’s just 20 minutes a day with one day off! (And, you can feel quite pleased with your multi-tasking productivity if you combine that time with a walk or bike ride!) A second paper examined green spaces in cities to determine what it was specifically that conferred benefits on people. The answer? Trees! Now, not everyone lives in a place where trees are abundant but even if you live on the high plains or the desert or deep within a dense urban jungle, you can still find a tree here and there that you can sit under and read or pray or meditate or just observe clouds floating by. Time spent outside in nature is beneficial even without trees. And, just to be clear, the studies have shown that the benefits of time in parks and in nature are not dependent upon exercise. Simply being present in such a setting has benefits regardless of activity.
Many actions that we take to protect our health require time or money or planning. While it might sound too simple to be be that powerful, there are significant benefits to spending time outdoor and with nature (whether it’s a garden, a tree, or a pot full of flowers):
- Reduced Stress – this includes reduced cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol can contribute to wrinkles and prompts the body to store belly fat. Blood pressure and heart rate also decrease.
- Reduced levels of depression for those who have it.
- Protective against developing depression.
- Time spent outside during the day also exposes you to natural light, itself a known mood-booster.
- Gives you brain a break from the onslaught of notifications and interruptions to your attention.
- Increased creativity
- Better focus
The benefits of time spent in nature, be it a park or a garden or a hiking trail through the woods, are so impressive that doctors are increasingly beginning to write prescriptions for it. So do yourself a favor today and spend 20 minutes getting your recommended minimum daily allowance of nature.
Even with the benefits of time spent in nature, sometimes people need additional tools and help. If you are considering scheduling time with a counselor, I invite you to set up a free in-person consultation with me. You can call or text me at (816) 226-4678.