The Importance of Nature
Currently, we are being encouraged to stay indoors and only leave our homes when essential. Luckily, we are still able to get outside and enjoy nature.
Why is nature important?
Research has consistently shown that spending time in nature, including parks, mountains and beaches, greatly affects our physical and mental health. Being in nature decreases our risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma and mental distress. Regarding mental health, we see an increase in stress reduction, relaxation and self-reflection. Being in nature encourages physical activity and other positive behaviours. Incidentally, levels of aggression decease when time is spent in nature.
Cognitively speaking, spending time in nature increases our ability to concentrate and relieves stress as the brain experiences a reduction in cortisol (the stress hormone). We have more capacity to reflect on problems and experience an increase in positive emotions. These positive emotions include an increase in happiness, self-esteem, and a greater sense of connectedness to others. Additionally, being outside is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia later in life.
Nature & Childhood
Spending time in nature with your children has been found to increase the bond between parent and child and increase family cohesion overall. This was found in doing something as simple as a 20-minute walk as a family. This is vital as people who spent more time in nature as children have been found to have better mental health in adulthood.
Green spaces, plants and natural beauty
Being around natural green spaces, such as gardens, parks, grass and trees, has numerous benefits. Even surrounding yourself with plants and indoor vegetation has emotional and mental health benefits that positively impact our physical, psychological, cognitive, social and spiritual wellbeing. These benefits include:
- Stress reduction – speeds recovery from mental fatigue, lowers anxiety, slows heart rate and reduces high blood pressure
- Reduces depression symptomology
- Improves memory capacity
- Decreases post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomology
- Improves productivity and concentration
- Increases creativity
- Fewer symptoms of dementia in older individuals
- Higher intellect – when surrounded by nature our minds make sense of complex, detailed information and assists in our understanding of geometry and architecture
How much do we need?
Physical and mental health improves when spending a minimum 2 hours a week in nature (such as in parks, woodlands or beaches). However, some research suggests that as little as five-minutes in nature can have a positive impact.
What can we do?
While we are unable to travel to beautiful nature spots, and many of us are living in urban environments, we are still able to connect to nature.
- Go for walks or bike rides around the block or through parks
- Arrange a nature treasure hunt (e.g., find # of trees, find different birds, plants etc)
- Get out into the garden
- Sensory play (e.g., sand pits)
- Have a backyard picnic or eat more meals outdoors as a family
- Play games outside (e.g., chalk drawing, go on trampoline or play equipment)
- Take the dog for a walk
- Many neighbourhoods have created “bear hunts” go search for teddy bears in the neighbourhood
- Take photos in nature
- If you’re unable to go outside look out the window
- Make pictures out of the clouds
- Have indoor plants
- Watch nature documentaries
- Increase natural lighting