We’ve all experienced it. That sense of peace as we wind our way along-side a sleepy river bed. The feeling of sheer joy and awe when staring out across a great valley, that sense that we could in that moment of time conquer anything that stood in our way. Or staring out into a vast ocean, the natural rhythmic sound of the lapping waves giving us a realisation of inner peace and total insignificance all at the same time.
Most people can feel that being outdoors has a positive effect on them. So why is it that Nature makes us feel so alive and at peace all at the same time? Why do we internally crave it?
Research now shows that being outdoors has quantifiable physical and mental health benefits. As little as 20 minutes a day can have a large impact.
Health benefits include:
- Boost to the immune system.
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Reduces stress.
- Improves mood.
- Increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD.
- Accelerates recovery from surgery or illness.
- Increases energy levels.
- Improves sleep.
Countless studies have been conducted on the health benefits of the outdoors; it is a well-known fact that nature reduces stress, lowers the blood pressure and improves the immune systems. Just spending 20 minutes a day in nature gives the cognitive proportion of your brain a break. It allows for better focus and renews our ability to be patient. Being outdoors encourages problem solving and helps to fight depression.
Our intimate relationship with the natural world has been built into our psyche. Ancient cultures have always honoured mountains, rivers and trees. We have worshiped the Sun and Moon and they have always somehow been a part of us. It is only when we start to move away from our connection to nature that we stop truly understanding ourselves.
We live in a world full of distractions and noise, they constantly demand our attention. We don’t have time to sit and self-reflect anymore. We can pick up a phone or computer and connect to someone or something with a click of a button. It is information overload and we can access all of it, at any time, from practically anywhere. Spending prolonged amounts of time looking at a screen leaves our inner-selves empty. Nothing we experience in this way is tangible, just an instant gratification, no real effort involved. We never get any time to just ‘think’ anymore. The lack of self-reflection is leading to a generation plagued with insomnia, high stress levels & depression. Have you ever tried to get to sleep when all you have done all day is distract your mind? By the time you get to bed your head is racing, you have so many problems or ideas that you have ignored all day and your brain needs to sort through them. It has no choice but to use the first time it has had a chance to process all day, right when you are trying to fall asleep.
We are complex beings, we need time to contemplate, reflect and connect and we seem to have lost that.
Getting outside is a great way to conquer this problem. It relates to us on a deeper level and our bodies relate back. It gives your brain time to process and reflect without the inane distractions of modern day life. We need quiet to connect to our inner-selves and nature not only gives us that but it also lifts up our emotions.
If you have ever tried sitting inside your house in silence you will know what I am talking about. Negative thoughts can quickly take over and soon we are back to searching for distractions again. Nature however has the opposite effect. With its silence comes inner peace, wonder and awe. It’s no wonder it calls to us.
So, the next time you’re feeling down or stressed, try heading outside. Go and visit the ocean, wash away your worries on the turn of the tide. Take it all in; climb a mountain or swim in a river because after all it is where we belong. Every living thing on Earth is inexplicably bonded, we are all points of consciousness and there is something bigger than the concept of "I". The energy pulsing through our veins is vibrating through the whole planet, we are one infinite living mind. A universal consciousness which is the binding force of all life. And who doesn’t want to experience that feeling?