Nature, wellness and mental health
There’s no better feeling than a long walk in the woods or mountains, or the feeling of peace and serenity from camping out and being away from it all. Its not just the physical feeling but the health and wellness benefits of spending time in nature, and “recharging” are immeasurable. Studies conducted by many research bodies have all concluded the physical and mental health benefits of the great outdoors. Here are some of the findings:
We live in a time wherein we have so much to do and places to be – it’s not a surprise that stress levels can take their toll. Taking some time to be in the wild can have great stress-relieving qualities. A Japanese study reported lower cortisol and other stress-related hormones of participants exposed to nature compared to their urban counterparts. Another study found even having access to a window with natural beauty greatly increased job satisfaction. The natural peace and ease one can feel in nature has much to offer us and sparks a growing trend of nature tourism across the world.
Preserving Natural Beauty
It is not just important for us to spend time in the wild. In order for us to protect and preserve the natural beauty in our landscapes we must have an appreciation of it. At the moment natural spaces are under threat from deforestation, pollution and other harmful forces. It is important to cultivate a sense of connectedness that will lead to a greater desire to preserve these invaluable assets.
A study carried out by University of Derby and Wildlife Trusts showed that a greater sense of connection to nature resulted from their “30 Days Wild” campaign. Participants reported that they not only felt better connected to nature but that they were more inclined to interact with nature by feeding birds, watering plants etc not just immediately after the campaign but months after. If we are to live in a world where natural beauty is appreciated than we must promote and extol the benefits of our natural landscape.
Benefits to children
It is no surprise that children can benefit hugely from interaction with nature, not just as a great way to exercise and play, but also in their long-term development. Children can experience benefits such as improved self-esteem, develop creativity and physical fitness. There is even evidence of better vision as a study in Taiwan showed that schools which reported lower instances of short-sightedness through play in nature. Children these days have grown up with a heavy reliance on devices like tablets, video games or phones, turning to them first in bored or idle moments. Discouraging their first instinct of reaching for a device and encouraging the outdoors is definitely best practice!
Improved mental health
One promising cultural development in recent years has been mental health awareness. People nowadays are making an effort to talk, listen and be mindful of the importance of looking after ourselves and each other emotionally. One of the ways of recharging and taking care “from the neck up” is to enjoy the fresh air and tranquility of a break away in the wild. Symptoms of anxiety and depression can be greatly reduced by time spent in nature. Walks in nature have been shown to have great beneficial properties particularly when combined with more strenuous exercise. As a result “green exercise” has become a trend as it provides much of the physical and psychological benefits of exercise and nature.
Improved Concentration – Being more “sharp”
Smartphones and other devices have become a permanent fixture in the hands of modern society. Time spent on various types of screens reduces our attention span and negatively affects our alertness, despite often working on these devices our productivity can be negatively affected.
In one study, participants who took a walk through nature and completed a proofreading task, fared the best against other control groups who took a walk through the city, or simply relaxed. What this suggests is that the benefits to the natural world can still aid us when we return to our daily lives.
The growth in nature tourism has been a source of pride for those of us who care about the natural world, more and more people are realising the benefits of being in the wild. Here in Ireland some of the most beautiful scenery in the world is on our doorstep, something we’d all do well to embrace!