The Great Outdoors—How Experiencing Nature Benefits Your Health
Now that summer is nearly upon us, or whatever season it may be, it’s a good opportunity to think about nature. Specifically, the idea that nature can affect our own wellbeing—not just our mood, but our physical health as well. Many cultures consider nature to be one of the most important forces in our lives.
One cultural system that believes very strongly in the relationship between nature and our health is Ayurveda. If you’re not familiar with Ayurveda, it’s a system of alternative medicine and other spiritual beliefs with roots in Indian culture. Ayurvedic texts and traditions describe a strong connection between humans and nature.
In the spirit of Ayurveda, in this article, we’ll explore a few different ways that nature affects our own wellbeing.
One of the core beliefs of Ayurveda is that nature has an ability to “recharge” our energy and reinvigorate our spirit. If you’ve ever felt bogged down at work, gone for a walk outside, and come back to your desk refreshed and with more energy, you know this sensation firsthand.
Sometimes just getting a few rays of sunlight, a nice breeze, or hearing the sound of birds and other animals can help calm and relax you. This calmness can rejuvenate your energy and help you get through the monotony of the day.
In fact, there’s another practice known as “grounding” or “earthing” that incorporates the idea of nature being able to recharge the body’s energy. Grounding, despite having no basis in scientific fact, is a very simple concept. It’s the idea that the Earth itself, through ionic charge, gravity, and other forces, can help us regulate our body on a cellular level.
To practice grounding, all you need to do is walk outside and plant your bare feet on the ground. That’s it! The direct contact with the Earth is supposed to help re-calibrate your body’s electrical charge, which can help keep your energy levels on track.
While the science doesn’t support this idea about ions and charges, try walking around barefoot in the grass; you’ll still feel relaxed, provided you watch out for bees. Nature undoubtedly has a soothing effect on our bodies, and increasing tactile input from it by going barefoot helps bolster that effect.
Spending more time in nature is a great way to boost your own wellbeing, but you won’t be the only one feeling benefits when you make friends with Mother Nature. The more time you spend in the great outdoors, the more likely you’ll be to respect the beauty of nature and treat it with care.
It really is a win-win for you and the Earth when you take time to appreciate the greatness of our planet.
Just like any interpersonal relationship, the more time you spend enjoying someone’s company, the more you are inclined to care about them. Your relationship with nature is no different. The more you allow nature to positively impact your life, the more passionate you will be about positively impacting the planet.
Proven Health Benefits
In addition to helping you feel better on a spiritual and personal level, going outside and spending some time out in nature can be linked to a few other health benefits as well:
Getting some time in the sun is a great way to expose your body to vitamin D. This important nutrient is critical in the maintenance of your body’s bones and skeletal health. Vitamin D helps regulate calcium production, which can help keep your bones strong. Spending even just a few minutes in the sun per day can help boost your body’s vitamin D levels.
It may sound simple, but it’s true that fresh air can be great for your lungs. Getting some clean air into your system can boost your energy, improve your mood, and bolster your immune system.
We’ve touched on this benefit a bit earlier in this article, but it bears repeating. Enjoying the presence of nature can be a very effective way to relieve stress. And when you have less stress, it helps your health overall.
Healthy Heart Support
Related to the idea of less stress is supported healthy heart function. When you take a few moments to stop and smell the roses, it can do wonders for your heart health. Staying cooped up inside and sitting in your favorite chair for too long, especially in a cluttered apartment, has been shown to be a negative influence on heart health.
Standing up and taking a brief walk through the meadow is an easy way you can help maintain that healthy ticker.
Encourage Weight Loss
Just the act of walking can be a great way to get you started on a healthy weight loss routine. The more time you spend outside, the more inspired you will be to add some activity to your life.
You might decide to take up biking, or dog walking, or a number of other outdoor-related hobbies. If you keep it up, you could even start exercising more intensely, putting yourself on the path to improved weight loss. Exercise can be far more enjoyable when you do it outside!
Give a Hoot!
As touched on earlier, it’s important to give back to nature as well. If you spend time in your backyard, on a hiking trail, or anywhere outside, make sure you leave the area in better condition than you found it. That means, don’t break limbs off trees or take keepsakes home with you.
It may seem harmless to take a simple rock or piece of wood back to your home. You might even be tempted to take a small animal like a lizard home for a pet, to bring a small piece of the outdoors to you. But even small animals and habitats play important roles in the environment in which they exist. So do Mother Nature a favor, and simply observe her beauty quietly, without disrupting it for your own amusement.
The Natural Conclusion
Whether you’re practicing Ayurveda, grounding, or just going for a walk outside to clear your head, the power of nature to rejuvenate your energy is apparent. Now, that’s not to say that everyone should move out to the countryside and away from urban areas.
It’s merely to suggest that spending a few moments outside can make a big difference in your day-to-day life and mood.
Be sure to hang out in your backyard or learn about parks in your neighborhood to ensure you always have a way to reconnect with the world.