Have you ever noticed that there is something really peaceful and nurturing about being out amongst nature? It is more than just the fresh air and the absence of noise made by traffic and machinery. It seems to have a subtle calming quality that soothes a busy mind and brings a sense of peace to any mood.
Perhaps it is a connection we have with our ancestors from long ago, who lived their entire lives out amongst nature. Today, the majority of people live amidst the hustle and bustle, either in cities or other built-up urban areas, spending far less time out amongst nature than we did only a few generations ago.
Asides from the enjoyable aspects of getting out in nature, research is now showing that spending time outdoors both helps enhance our health as well as our overall quality of life!
The Effects Nature Has On The Brain
Improves Memory - Research was done at the University Of Michigan, and published in Psychological Science, that indicated that memory performance can be improved by up to 20% just by spending an hour walking amongst nature. Interestingly enough, this same study showed that you don’t even have to be overly interested in your nature walk to gain these benefits!
Enhanced Attention Span - The same research as mentioned above, showed that spending an hour walking in nature can also enhance focus and attention by up to 20%. Our senses are constantly being bombarded with advertising, information, architecture and busy streets, all of which pull at our attention. Yet many scientists believe that our brains are just not designed to handle this kind of constant sensory overload. Because of this, many of us experience reduced or dulled attention span, without even realising it. Being in nature is believed to help ‘reboot’, or ‘re-energise’ our brains, and in doing so broadening our attention span. So if you have an important lecture to attend or a meeting, consider making time to go for a walk in a park before it, to focus your attention and help you retain the information you receive.
Nature Encourages Mindfulness - Mindfulness is a practice that involves drawing your awareness to both the internal and external environment as it is happening in the present moment. It is an incredibly useful technique to help cultivate clarity of thoughts and ground fluctuating emotions and is often used to help alleviate stress and anxiety. Though mindfulness is a technique that can be practised absolutely anywhere, there is something about the serenity of nature that makes the process of reflecting on your thoughts and feelings quite instinctive and natural.
Reduces The Risk Of Dementia - Now that we know that walking in nature helps increase focus, attention and memory retention, it is commonly used in the treatment and prevention of dementia in the elderly. So by taking the time to be amongst nature on a regular basis, you can not only help enhance your cognitive function, you can also help keep your wits about you as you move into your golden years!
Need More Incentive To Walk In Nature?
Making time to spend out in nature, whether it be walking in lush forest areas, through your local part, admiring the flora of the botanical gardens or simply strolling along the beach, benefits much more than just your brain.
- The Fresh Air Soothes Your Lungs - It is amazing to think that the very air we breathe, rich in oxygen, is produced by the trees and plants on this planet. They take the toxic carbon dioxide that we exhale and use it in a process called photosynthesis, to produce clean, life-sustaining oxygen. So it is little wonder that the air is fresher and purer amongst nature than it is in the busy streets of the cities. Even though our lungs can handle small amounts of pollution, pollution is essentially poison to our bodies and too much makes us sickly and unwell. Breathing in the fresh air out in nature is much like having an oil change in your car. Your lungs are cleansed with fresh oxygen, which then gets transported to you blood and out through your body, enriching each and every cell.
- Getting Out And About - When we talk about ‘being out in nature’, we don’t mean conveniently driving through a forested area. It implies actually getting out in nature on your own two legs! This usually involves a level of exercise, whether is be light or more strenuous. You may just take a casual stroll, or perhaps you are taking it to the next level with some jogging, kayaking, cycling, rock climbing or any other activity that has you out amongst nature. Fresh air coupled with exercise not only stimulates the cognitive function of your brain, it also enhances the health of the rest of your body and your mind.
- Reduces Stress - Numerous studies run in Finland, Japan, and America Have all indicated that being out in nature not only helps to lower your resting heart rate and blood pressure, it also reduces anxiety and the symptoms of stress. With the calming combination of fresh air, gentle exercise, peace and quiet and encouraged mindfulness, it is not all that surprising that being out in nature is a useful way of helping reduce stress!
Feel Alive- There is nothing quite like a walk out in the beauty of nature to invigorate you and make you feel alive! Nature, and our natural environment, takes many forms and there is so much to see and explore. Surfing waves, hiking up mountains, trekking through forest areas or planting flowers in a garden, are all activities that bring us closer to nature and closer to the earth that sustains us.