Keep Outside in Mind for Less Stress
Spending time in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve your mood, and boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Whatever you call it – forest bathing, ecotherapy, mindfulness in nature, green time or the wilderness cure — humans evolved in the great outdoors, and your brain benefits from a journey back to nature.
Have you been feeling down lately? A little sluggish, stressed out, or maybe wondering, “What’s life all about?”
Here’s another question: How much time have you spent in nature lately?
The answer to these two questions might be more closely related than you’d think.
We live in a time when we can set the thermostat, order takeout and stream a movie from a cell phone; never having to get off the couch, let alone leave the house. But our ancestors were tightly tied to time in nature — they had to be in order to survive.1 Was that rustle in the brush predator or prey? Did the position of the sun mean it was time to head home? Could that copse of trees provide safe shelter for the night?
The modern way we live has changed radically from life in the savanna, but our brains have mostly stayed the same. We still have a deep connection with nature, and research shows that if we don’t nourish that bond despite our technological advancements, we may suffer in many ways.
Here’s how you might feel if you’ve been holed up in your home (or in the big city) for too long, and how getting back to nature could soothe what ails you.
Depressed: If you’re feeling blue, try trading the cramped, gray city for some green, natural spaces. A stroll in the woods has been shown to help combat depression, and even just the view of the forest from a hospital room helps patients who are feeling down. Head for the hills if you need a boost to your mood.
Stressed: The buzzing of people, cars zipping down the street and bright billboards flashing advertisements are all part of the urban environment. The constant stimulation puts stress on brains that evolved in more tranquil environments. Nature presents scenes that gently capture your attention instead of suddenly snatching it, calming your nerves instead of frazzling them.
Anxious: You probably know that exercise is good for your state of mind. But did you know that working out in nature helps to reduce anxiety, among other benefits, even more than going to an indoor gym? Consider skipping the exercise bike and hit some trails to get the best mental bang for your buck.