Have you ever bathed in sunlight? Doesn’t it make you feel great, no matter your previous mood? There’s actually a scientific reason for this improved mood – spending time outside in nature is proven to increase general health and well-being; physically and mentally! For years, the Japanese have been studying the effects that nature has on the body and developed “Shinrin-Yoku”, or Forest Bathing, simply being immersed in nature and letting nature wash over you.
Here are my top “feel-good” reasons for getting some quality outdoor time:
Get Exercise – Going for even a walk is exercise. My favorite forms of outdoor exercise are running, walking the dog, playing tennis, hiking, jumping waves and swimming in the ocean, gardening, and climbing trees with my husband. Exercise increases the production of endorphins (a “feel-good” hormone) in the brain.
Soak up the Sun – Vitamin D produced by the sun is vital in helping bones absorb calcium and properly develop. Getting good sunlight can help prevent osteoporosis and even increase dental health! This amazing vitamin also improves brain function and so helps prevent things like Alzheimer’s and depression. It also can prevent cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Reduce Stress Levels – Soil is Great! Mycobacterium vaccae, a type of soil bacteria, has been linked with increasing the production of serotonin, the happiness hormone. The extra production of this hormone can act as an antidepressant and improve cognitive function. Simply being outside in fresh air and sunlight reduces the stress hormone, cortisol.
Boost Immune System – Going hand in hand with soaking up Vitamin D, being outside is proved to boost your general health by increasing immune system function. Amazingly enough, simply being in a forest can improve our immune systems. That soil bacteria is known to not only increase serotonin levels, but to also decrease inflammation in the immune system. Trees also give off a compound called phytoncides that support our natural killer white blood cells!
Develop Higher Levels of Balance & Agility – Being on uneven surfaces (think hiking instead of treadmill running) increases the brain’s awareness of how your body moves and reacts. Every time you take a step, the brain makes millions of tiny calculations to determine how your foot should land. Balancing on fallen logs, walking on natural trails, or jumping from rock to rock in a creek, all help better develop agility!
Increase Problem Solving & Critical Thinking – Along with the development mentioned previously, exploring nature can also help the brain develop in other areas! Climbing trees, rocks, or jumping from stone to stone in that creek can help increase problem solving skills. We are thinking of where to best put our hands or feet while climbing rocks/trees, about which stone will best hold our weight and not move beneath us, and about how best to jump without slipping or missing.
Discover New Things – Have you ever gone outside for a walk and seen a wildflower that you didn’t know was in your area, or seen a bug in your garden that you’ve never seen before? Nature is fascinating and always has something new to offer.
Explore Ecological Connections – While we’re outside discovering the new things, we are also making connections between what we see. Not only does this increase our cognitive function, but it also increases our awareness of the importance of the environment as a whole. We notice connections between plants and the season and the impact that has on the local wildlife, the pollinators buzzing around our plants, birds at the feeders and take note of what they eat. Everything is connected and by increasing our understanding of that connection, we can increase our desire to protect all facets of nature!
What are your top reasons for getting outside? Share in the comment section below!
Did you know that simply looking at photos of nature can increase your sense of peace and calm? Have you noticed how the art in doctors offices, hospitals, and other places that can potentially increase your stress levels are usually of some natural place? These pieces of art usually are of some sort of landscape that shows a wide open area (meadow, ocean, etc…) next to a sheltered area (mountain, forest, island, etc…). People can look at the photo and feel as if they are in a happy environment where there is the freedom to look out and be immersed in nature, yet have a safe place to retreat to (still in nature) to make them feel comfortable, away from the vulnerable, yet beautiful, open space. These photos tend to calm patients down and regulate tense breathing rates.
Want to bring that sense of calm to your home?
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