We know nature makes us feel good. That’s why when the sun comes out everybody jumps for joy and heads to the lakes, rivers and woods. But did you know that nature can heal your over-stressed brain? Yes it can! And it can affect your body in other positive ways. But what dosage of Vitamin N (nature) is needed?
Studies show that just spending 10 minutes in nature 2-3 times a week can really make a difference in how you feel. But how does it do that? Have you ever wondered what’s going on in your brain and body while you are engaging in outdoor activities?
Here’s the top five ways that nature can help you be a better you!
#1: NATURE CLEARS YOUR HEAD
This is Your Brain on Nature
A recent study showed a 90-minute walk through a natural environment has a remarkably positive impact on people. Participants in the study who took the natural walk showed far lower levels of anxiety or obsessive worry. The group who spent 90 minutes walking through a city did not share the nature group’s good mood.
#2: IT IMPROVES YOUR MOOD AND LOWERS STRESS
Get a natural high on Vitamin N!
Studies comparing indoor versus outdoor activity conducted in natural environments suggest that outdoor activities cause greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement. All types of green exercise activities also improve self-esteem and combat negative moods like tension, anger and depression. Interestingly, the first five minutes of green exercise appears to have the biggest impact on mood and self-esteem, which suggests there is an immediate psychological health benefit.
Nature may be a solution to stress. Hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol all fall after being within nature.
#3: IT SPURS CREATIVITY
Are you stressing about a big project or a test? Take a walk in the woods!
Another study showed that after a four day-long hike in the wilderness, with no access to technology, participants scored a whopping 50% higher on a creativity and problem solving test. Problem-solving skills are thought to originate in the same area of the brain that we also use for selective attention and threat detection. These scientists are concerned that our ability to think creatively is likely being overwhelmed by the constant stimulus of digital and indoor life.
#4: IT IMPROVES YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Sick of getting sick?
Walking in nature has been found to improve your immune function in the form of increased natural killer cell activity. Natural killer cells are our body’s weapon against invading bacteria and viruses. Without these guys, we would be in big trouble. In one study, natural killer cell activity increased for up to 30 days after a three-day trip to a forest. Essentially, our interaction with nature helps us defend ourselves from bugs we catch!
#5: YOU’RE LESS LIKELY TO SNACK ON UNHEALTHY FOODS
Exposure to nature helps us make better eating choices
Hanging out and watching TV has been found to be associated with snacking more frequently, and frequent viewers also report more consumption of energy-dense snacks. So, a healthy benefit of outdoor recreation is a decreased likelihood of overeating.
Ready to make a change? Take the Vitamin N Challenge.
Give me my #VitaminN
This challenge was initiated by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life and Child and Nature Network. Learn more about the Vitamin N challenge.
Choose Your Challenge
Vitamin N Challenges come in many shapes and sizes. Yours may be a single project or experience. It may be a lifestyle change over the course of a week, month, or year. To choose your challenge, think about where there is room for more Vitamin N in your life. How can it serve your family, school, place of worship, library, health care facility or community in connecting people to nature. Feel free to adopt any of the actions suggested in Vitamin N or similar books, to get inspired by ideas from others or to come up with your own actions and innovations.
Maybe your challenge means designating one day each week “friends and family hike day.” Or perhaps you’d like to lead your community in a habitat restoration project. Whatever idea you choose, whatever scale, remember to treat Vitamin N like your other vitamins– don’t skip it!
Share Your Experience
Tell us about your personal Vitamin N Challenge. How did you get your dose of Vitamin N? What worked and what didn’t? Let them know how your life and the lives of others are changed. There are many ways to share your experience.
- SHARE your tips, photos and videos on Twitter, Facebook orInstagram. Use the hashtags #VitaminN #beaactiveoutdoors
- WRITE a blog for Be Active Outdoor or Nature At The Confluence. Share about about your personal challenge! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ten Reasons Why Childen and Adults Need Vitamin N – Richard Louv
Nature At The Confluence, Find Nature Where Turtle Creek and the Rock River Meet, South Beloit, IL
Be Active Outdoors – “We promote outdoor recreation and active lifestyles by endorsing the health and wellness aspect of outdoor activity.” Beloit, WI
Excerpts from this article came from:
Photos from Unsplash