The Hidden Benefits of Connecting with Nature
There are numerous benefits to connecting with nature including our physical and mental health, as well as for our overall well-being. Even test scores and productivity can increase. However, despite the many benefits of spending time in nature, many people struggle to access outdoor spaces and opportunities to connect with the natural world. But recently science has shown us that something as simple as listening to nature sounds can have similar benefits. Let’s dive into the benefits of connecting with nature, the issues with access that some people face, and ways to make it easier to connect with the natural world.
Benefits of Connecting with Nature
One of the main benefits of connecting with nature is that it can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Spending time in nature has been shown to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increase feelings of relaxation and peacefulness. Additionally, nature can have a positive impact on mental health. Exposure to green spaces has been associated with reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, and has also been shown to improve attention and concentration.
One study found that spending just 5 minutes a day outside improved both mood and self-esteem. And a research review showed evidence that “contact with nature is associated with increases in happiness, subjective well-being, positive affect, positive social interactions, and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as decreases in mental health.”
Beyond just mental health, connecting with nature also has numerous physical health benefits. Spending time outdoors has been linked to increased levels of physical activity, which can improve cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes, and even improve bone health.
Barriers to Access
Despite the many benefits of connecting with nature, some people face barriers to accessing outdoor spaces and opportunities. These barriers can include living in urban areas with limited green spaces, lack of access to transportation, and even financial constraints.
To overcome these barriers, there are a number of things that can be done. For example, finding ways to incorporate nature into daily activities like walking or biking to work can make it easier to spend time in nature on a regular basis. Additionally, many cities and towns have public parks and gardens that can serve as accessible outdoor spaces for those who live in more urban areas. Community gardens, nature preserves, and hiking trails can also be great options for connecting with nature.
Another way to connect to nature can be done through something called nature relatedness. This can include watching a movie or show that depicts a diverse mix of flora and fauna, listening to water or other natural sounds, or viewing art that centers around the natural world. A comparison between individuals who walked outside to those in urban settings who watched nature videos found “that any exposure to nature – in person or via video – led to improvise n attention, positive emotions and the ability to reflect on a life problem.”
A few ways to connect with nature
- Take a hike or a walk in a nearby park or nature trail.
- Visit a local botanical garden or arboretum.
- Spend time in your own backyard or local green spaces observing birds, insects, and other small wildlife.
- Start a garden or grow your own herbs or vegetables.
- Spend some time looking at the clouds or stars
- Enjoy a picnic in a natural area.
- Take a day trip to a nearby nature reserve or conservation area.
- Go for a swim or paddle in a nearby lake, river or ocean.
- Volunteer for a local conservation or clean-up project.
- Practice mindfulness and meditation in a natural setting.
- Attend a nature photography or sketching class.
- Camping or backpacking trip
- Go for birdwatching or wildlife spotting.
- Watch a nature documentary.
- Listen to the sounds of nature.
- Change your computer home screen to one that depicts diverse flora and fauna.
- Compare blades of grass or leaves.
- Take 5 minutes a day deeply breathing outside.
Spending just 5 minutes a day outside or immersed in a nature based activity has immense physical and mental benefits. Connecting to nature also helps us to create a more sustainable future (Listen: Guilty Greenie – Greenpathy with Psychologist Troy Jackson) through empathetic acknowledgement of our innate connection to the planet and one another. It’s a win-win for all.
What are some ways you go about connecting with nature?