Spending time outdoors provides a number of benefits to our health and wellbeing. Making the most of green spaces, forests, rivers, lakes, beaches and mountains is a perfect way to unwind, reflect and feed your mind, body and soul. Here are a few reasons to embrace all the wonderful gifts that nature has to offer.
A dose of happiness
Being in contact with nature makes us feel better. Researchers at King’s College London found that being outdoors in cities and seeing trees, hearing birdsong, spotting the blue sky and feeling in contact with nature increases our feelings of wellbeing.(1)
Regularly connecting with nature helps to increase our happiness levels. In addition, immersing ourselves in the sights and sounds of the outdoors brings upon feelings of calm, making it an ideal remedy to help us wind down after a busy day or week.
Make a habit of getting outdoors…take a daily walk, paying attention to the number of trees you pass, how often you hear birdsong and how their sound changes. If it’s a busy day and you can’t get outdoors, keeping your window open so you can hear the birds singing will still help to maintain that connection. When you have more time to explore, following a nature trail, river walk or coastal route is a wonderful way to top up your wellbeing quota.
Bonding with nature also gives us the opportunity to slow down, stop and adapt to what’s going on around us... notice how plants reflect light and how the leaves change color in the autumn. Paying attention to these small details can help us to engage our senses.
Relax and observe
Forest bathing, also known as the practice of shinrin-yoku is a Japanese concept that encourages people to spend time in nature. According to research by Japan’s Chiba University, being surrounded by trees can benefit concentration and memory. An aromatic chemical that is released by trees and plants, called phytoncides, was found to have benefits for the immune system. The research findings prompted the Japanese government to incorporate shinrin-yoku into the country’s health program.(2)
Forest medicine expert, Dr Qing Li is the author of Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing. Dr Qi feels we’re designed to be connected to the natural world and to “listen to the wind and taste the air”. In his book, he advises leaving all devices behind, walking aimlessly and slowly and letting your body be your guide. “You are savoring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in,” he says.
Engage with outdoor activitiesBeing physically active - running, walking, cycling, swimming, practicing yoga or meditation - offers a multitude of wellness benefits, as can more exploratory activities like camping, hiking and rock climbing. And for the less active, simply sitting on a bench or relaxing on a field of grass, enjoying the peace and quiet will still allow you to absorb the positive influence of nature. No matter which activity you choose, there is a benefit of connecting with nature.
1.Journaling can increase wellbeing. Recording what you find on each nature visit can help to sharpen your observation skills and enhance your connection with nature and earth.
2. You can also brush up on your photography skills by capturing beautiful sights that you can reflect on and share with others.
Adding creative ways to reflect your experiences will further strengthen your connection as you become more familiar with the sights, sounds and smells of nature.
The choice of what you capture each day is yours!
(1) King’s College London (2018). Study suggests exposure to trees, the sky and birdsong in cities beneficial for mental wellbeing
(2) Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences, Chiba University (2010). The physiological effects of shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments from 24 forests across Japan