Why Nature is So Good For Us

snowshoeing in nature
No, this isn’t in the Twin Cities! There are many wonderful places to enjoy nature in Minnesota, like here on the Gunflint Trail.

Some of us have known it on a personal level, but studies are proving that Nature is good for us! In fact, if doctors could control our behavior, I bet many would rather prescribe time in nature (especially active time) for our ailments than the drugs they resort to.

Nature is that good for us!

Nature is Great for Our Mental and Emotional Health

In 2010, Deakin University of Australia published the results of a study called Beyond Blue to Green: The benefits of contact with nature for mental health and well-being. (You can find the PDF here)

They found:

“Growing evidence shows that access to the natural environment improves health and well-being, as well as preventing disease and helping people recover from illness. Experiencing nature in an outdoor environment can help tackle mental health problems, obesity, and coronary heart disease…

“The conviction that contact with nature, for example through viewing landscapes that include vegetation, water and other natural features, ameliorates stress and benefits humans in general, including people in healthcare settings, is evident as far back as the earliest documented histories of China, Greece and Persia.

“Since the early 1980s, environmental psychologists have studied the health effects of contact with nature. During that time there has been a growing acknowledgement that humans depend on nature not simply for material requirements such as water, food and shelter, but also for their emotional, psychological and spiritual needs.”

Wow.

The study goes on…

“Children who experience high levels of contact with nature are reported to have higher levels of self-worth and higher cognitive function.”

(See Why Outdoor Play is So Good for Our Kids for more on that…)

gooseberry falls
This isn’t in the Twin Cities either! This is Gooseberry Falls—another wonderful place to enjoy nature here in Minnesota.

Nature’s Benefits

Studies in other parts of the world agree that people who get in regular contact with nature—called green spaces in the Australian study—are more likely to experience…

  • Improved moods
  • Less anxiety
  • Less stress
  • Less depression
  • Better sleep
  • Better problem-solving skills
  • More physical activity (See Why Physical Activity is So Good for Us for a reminder of why that’s key)

Easy Ways to Get in Nature

Getting in nature doesn’t have to mean leaving the city and heading for the woods—although that’s awesome when we can do it! It can be as simple as walking the trails of a local park…even gardening in your own yard.

We’re fortunate in our Twin Cities metro area to have so many green spaces around us, even in the middle of the urban areas. We’re surrounded by natural beauty.

Is this idea new to you? Start by choosing an activity you like or want to try. Then click on your county and find a park or trail close to you. Then get out there and start exploring these natural areas little by little. You’ll find a whole new world open up to you!

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