The benefits of our outdoor experiences aren’t always easy to put into words. We love the sound of songbirds harmonizing from the treetops, and cherish the sight of a beautiful sunrise over a misty mountain, but how exactly do these types of "feel good" moments translate into happier lives and actual health-related rewards? There is research and plenty of documentation that tells us.
If you seem to find yourself craving a consistent nature fix, or want more evidence that points to the life-changing things that can happen when you spend more time outdoors, check out these ten benefits of being in nature.
1. Improved short-term memory.
According to a University of Michigan study, being in nature can help improve your short-term and working memory. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner fishing for the first time or if you're taking a bike ride through a state park, nature has a way of working wonders when it comes to your memory.
2. Reduced inflammation.
Among the other benefits of being in nature is that it can help reduce inflammation. In one study, elderly patients who took a trip into the woods for one week showed reduced signs of inflammation as well as indications that a walk in an evergreen forest had a positive effect on hypertension.
3. Awareness of conservation.
Spending time in nature helps us develop a better understanding of the relationship between humans and the environment. When we become stewards of nature, we can see why it's important to support healthy waterways.
4. Boosts the immune system.
If you know how to enjoy nature by spending time in a forest, you may be rewarded with higher immunity. When we breathe in fresh air, we also breathe in phytoncides. Phytoncides are airborne antimicrobial compounds that plants give off as protection from harmful insects and germs. When we breathe in these compounds, our bodies boost the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies.
5. Less stress.
Research has indicated that one of the benefits of going outside is less stress. Studies show that people who spend more time outdoors have better moods, expanded thinking, and find more meaning in life than individuals who often stay indoors. Learn how to tie a fly with a friend outdoors or rent a canoe and go for a paddle on a nearby lake.
6. Improved sleep.
Whether you're learning how to fish or hiking through the mountains, exposure to sunlight during the day can increase your melatonin production at night. Melatonin helps to regulate your sleep cycle.
7. Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness.
Knowing how to enjoy nature can help you recover faster following an illness or surgery. In a classic study that was performed in a suburban Pennsylvania hospital between 1972 and 1981, patients who had a window view of deciduous trees healed from surgery more quickly than those who viewed a brick wall.
8. Better vision.
Hours behind a computer or smart phone screen can take its toll on your eyesight. Spending time outdoors gives your eyes a chance to focus on objects farther away, which can reduce eye strain.
9. Improved relationships.
Getting out into nature is a great way to reconnect with family and friends and catch up in person. Let family, friends, or a mentor teach you how to boat or how to catch fish, and you're likely to build on your relationships in the process.
10. Higher self-esteem.
Studies have shown that as little as 5 minutes of outdoor activity can help improve self-esteem. This is particularly true if you’re near green space or water. When you learn new fishing skills, dock a boat, back a trailer, or tie a new fishing knot; the associated feelings of empowerment help to boost your self-esteem.
Now that you know about these amazing benefits of being in nature, pick a few outdoor destinations to explore and then reap the many rewards.