The Benefits of Nature

Photo: The Gulf of Mexico taken September of 2015.

My prior article mentioned that there are multiple benefits to being outside.  There are lots of benefits, including low cost, relaxing, renewing and calming.  Many cities have parks that are free to use.  Why not use them?  Just look at how much money you could save by going and enjoying nature instead of paying for entertainment.  

Nature was the first entertainment for our ancestors and kids naturally go to the outdoors, when they are younger.  As they get older, kids tend to fall into habits of playing video games and watching TV.  This leads to less time in nature and less time being imaginative.  I remember reading, "Bridge to Terabithia" in school.  This book showed what it was like to be a kid when times were simpler.  The kids in this book imagined their own forest kingdom called Terabithia and they played everyday out in the woods imagining.  I thought this book shows how the imagination of kids can be a great thing that they enjoyed daily and is something the kids in our culture need more.

There has been lots of research showing the importance of nature for all people, not only children.  About a year and a half ago, I finished reading a book titled, "Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder."  This book was a study that tried to prove the importance of being outside for kids.  The author completed multiple studies to show the benefits of nature, but one study stood out to me.  It was a study of adults who went on vacation.  Twenty of the adults went on vacation to a city and the other 20 adults went on a vacation to nature.   Before going and after coming back, the adults were given a test.  The results were pretty amazing.  The 20 adults who vacationed in cities scored the exact same on both tests, whereas, the vacationers in nature scored higher on the second test than on the first test.

I found the stats of this study to be very enlightening.  And I personally can see lots of the benefits of nature.  I feel calmer and more relaxed when spending time in nature.  I feel like I am in a better mood and just enjoy life.  One thing that I think makes you do better on a test would be the requirement to use all of your senses.  You have to be aware, especially if you are in an area with bears and rattle snakes.  So, I think the improvement on a test stems from the relaxation that is received from being in nature and the requirement to use all of your senses.  Your mind is clearer and you are more aware of things.

I also read posts from Mark's Daily Apple.  He talks about living a primal lifestyle and paramount to a primal lifestyle is being one with nature.  He has written many articles on nature, but I am going to cite his article from August 16, 2012 titled "The Rich and Measurable Benefits of Spending More Time in Nature."  I am going to start out by quoting this article:

“On the physical side, time in nature is associated with a welcome decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and sympathetic nerve activity. There’s the dramatic increase of anti-cancer protein expression and natural killer cells to fight off infection and cancer growth. To boot, exercising outdoors in green – or better yet green and “blue” (body of water) – space enhances the gains of each workout. Subjects in studies report greater revitalization, increased energy, and more positive engagement, along with less depression, anger, confusion, and tension when they exercised outdoors in comparison with indoor workouts.

Then there are the other mental benefits, including the overall reduction in stress as well as cognitive advantages such as the replenishing of voluntary attention that enhance connectivity in the brain and allows us to focus efficiently. And don’t forget the opportunity to experience deep joy and transcendental connectedness. It’s a shame we can’t all be outside right now.”
— Mark Sisson

I don't think I could have put it any better than Mark.  His research has shown the same thing as "Last Child in the Woods."  We replenish our voluntary attention and enhance connectivity to the brain.  This allows us to focus better.  In this article, he also mentions that nature makes us calm, fortified, and restored.  That is how we feel emotionally outdoors, but there are also studies that show the benefits in healing.  Studies have shown that patients (in a hospital) with windows to green space or even patients that have the opportunity to visit a hospital garden have measurable psychological progress.  Nature has even been proven to reduce symptoms of ADHD and behavioral problems.  Last Child in the Woods also suggest that ADHD can be cured in kids by just taking them outdoors.

As REI pointed out to us earlier this month, John Muir once said it best: 

‘Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home.’
— John Muir

This statement connects very well to all the research in this article.  There are way more benefits than just saving when  it comes to being in nature.  You get so much rejuvenation from nature that you can't get from going to a movie or spending time out on the town.  It just makes so much sense to find time for nature and enjoy all the benefits.  So, I challenge you to find time to be one with nature this month.  Let's shoot for at least once a week!  Skip the bars and go stargazing, or skip the mall and have a picnic in a park.  Whatever it is, let me know in the comments section below how you found your way to nature this month and don't forget about #optoutside on Black Friday.

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