How it pays to spend time in nature


Few things can be as distracting as a beautiful day. When the weather outside is welcoming, it can be hard to focus on indoor activities, including work and tasks around the house. 

Though it’s not advisable to ignore responsibilities at work and at home when the weather outside beckons, it can be beneficial to spend ample time in nature when circumstances allow.

Whether they know it or not, people who love to spend time in nature are doing their mental and physical health a lot of good by embracing the great outdoors.

Mental health benefits

The National Alliance of Mental Illness notes that a growing body of research supports the idea that time in nature is good for mental health. 

A 2015 study from researchers at Stanford University found that people who walked in a natural area for 90 minutes exhibited decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with depression compared to those who walked in high-traffic urban settings.

The United Kingdom-based Mental Health Foundation (MHF) also touts the mental health benefits of the great outdoors. 

According to the MHF, research shows that people who are connected with nature are more likely to report their lives are worthwhile than those with no such connectedness. 

In addition, the MHF notes time in nature has been shown to generate positive emotions, including calmness and joy, and promote greater creativity.

When seeking to capitalize on the mental health benefits of time in nature, people should know that where they spend time outdoors matters. 

As the Stanford study indicated, time outside in high-traffic urban settings may not produce as profound an effect as time spent in natural settings, like forests, that tend to be more serene. People who live in cities or other densely populated areas can still benefit from time outdoors, but they might experience even greater health gains if they make consistent efforts to spend time in more natural settings.

Physical health benefits

The physical health benefits of time in nature are equally notable. 

Perhaps the most obvious physical benefit is related to physical activity. People tend to embrace physical activity when spending time in nature. Hiking, jogging, walking, nature-based recreational activities like kayaking, and playing sports like basketball or pickleball all involve physical activity, which can help people avoid the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle, such as an increased risk for chronic diseases. 

More specifically, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation notes the physical health benefits of spending time outside include:

• A stronger immune system.

• Lower blood pressure.

• Increased energy levels.

• Improved sleep.

Each of those benefits contributes to greater overall health, making time outdoors among the more beneficial behaviors a person can embrace.

There’s no shortage of benefits to spending time in nature. That’s something to keep in mind the next time welcoming weather beckons you to get some fresh air.