Last week, I mentioned that being outside is a sanctuary for me. Working in my garden, taking a walk in the park with my dog, or just getting a breath of fresh air always rejuvenates me.
Studies show that I’m not alone. Nature-based activities can indeed reduce symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. The growing field of ecotherapy is based on the concept that getting back to nature helps promote well-being and good mental health. One recent study found that people recover more quickly from stress when they are exposed to nature sounds. Another study found that food and fruit fragrances helped improve the mood of hospital patients.
You don’t even need to spend time in a green environment to experience the benefits of nature. Just viewing nature through a window or photographs can improve your overall mood. One researcher found that office workers who had a view of nature from a window were more satisfied with their jobs and their lives than other workers who spent their time shut off from nature.
Children are especially affected by nature. Studies show that children who live near green spaces exhibit better attention spans and are less prone to spontaneous gratification than children who live in surroundings dominated by concrete. Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) display fewer symptoms after spending time in a green environment.
As caregivers, we often find ourselves in sedentary situations, which can make us feel isolated, stressed or worn out. Spending time outside can balance this effect. Nature can help us improve our resilience, self-confidence, and self-esteem, giving us greater strength to manage challenging situations.
And don’t forget the physical effects. When you’re outside – walking, biking, gardening, etc. – you’re also gaining cardiovascular and weight-management benefits.
I hope you did go outside to read this. And if you did, why not stay awhile?