Nature and Well-Being: 3 Proven Health Benefits of Spending Time Outside

By Erica Loop in Healthy Feeling

There's a reason why the sounds of nature come standard on background noise devices. Nature and well-being go hand in hand, and the outdoor elements have a way of putting us at ease.

In fact, the effects of nature on health are well-documented in scientific literature. Here are three ways in which embracing the great outdoors can improve your mind and body.

1. Being One with Nature Reduces Stress

You know the feeling of zen you get from walking through a forest or other green spaces? Well, as it turns out, there's a scientific reason behind your complete sense of calm. According to research published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, immersion in a nature experience can significantly reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

While any type of outdoor space offers beneficial effects, opt for less urban settings if you're looking to truly unwind. According to research published in Behavioral Sciences, the more natural an outdoor area is, the greater its effect on stress reduction.

This doesn't mean that you have to spend hours traveling to the deep country in pursuit of some stress-reducing time with nature. Instead, opt for grassy, tree-lined parks over concrete paths for your lunchtime walk. Or connect with your family by spending some time in a flower-packed meadow, as opposed to a foam-floored local playground.

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2. Nature Has Positive Effects on Mental Health

The effects of nature on mental health are even greater for children. Research from Aarhus University in Denmark found that children who grew up without green spaces nearby had up to a 55 percent higher risk of developing a mental disorder as an adult. Even though the study doesn't say that a lack of green spaces during childhood will absolutely cause psychological issues, it does underscore the importance of spending time in nature.

But what if you live in an urban jungle? While you might not have a backyard or a forest in your neighborhood, you can always grab the kids and head to a city park or nearby nature preserve. Additionally, free resources like TrailLink can help you easily locate hiking paths or campsites near you.

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3. More Outdoor Time Means Better Physical Health

The nature and well-being connection doesn't only apply to your psychological health. A study published in Environmental Research found that exposure to green spaces had physical health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Another study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, also found similar results. In this specific study, the percentage of green space in a person's living environment was directly linked to their perceived general health. In other words, the more green space you have around you, the healthier you'll probably feel.

Nature directly affects your emotional, psychological, and physical health. So whether you're a trail runner who visits park after park on your days off or someone who uses a long lunch break to chill under a tree, there are plenty of ways to sneak in nature time—and plenty of reasons to do so.

How do you make time to get outside? Let us know on Twitter!

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Why It's Good

Time spent in nature can decrease stress, lead to better mental health, and improve your physical well-being. If you live in a major city, embracing the great outdoors is still doable—and can even be done on your lunch break!