Spring is Here! Time to Gain the Health Benefits of Time Spent Outside

There are times in a person’s life where it can be challenging to cope. People respond differently to circumstances and many of their wounds remain open and are difficult to repair. There is so much strife in the world, despair, loneliness, depression, it can be unbearable. And the coronavirus hibernation has created great mental health challenges for so many.


Finding a place outdoors to just “be” can offer solace during these times. There is so much beauty all around. We don’t need a National Park for this. It can be as simple as sitting in our backyard, exploring a local park, spending time gardening, walking along a river or in our own neighborhood. The health benefits for mind, body and spirit from spending time outdoors are well-researched.


As we spend time in nature, our heart rate slows down, our minds are better able to focus on the present and we begin to recognize again that we’re part of something larger than ourselves. We are able to see the connections between all of life in its many forms.


Here are a few articles/studies referencing some research on the health benefits of spending time in nature:


“Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44097-3

“It's official -- spending time outside is good for you,”

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180706102842.htm


“Benefits of Ecotherapy: Being In Nature Fights Depression, Improves Mental Health and Well-Being,”

https://www.medicaldaily.com/benefits-ecotherapy-being-nature-fights-depression-improves-mental-health-and-well-being-261075


“This Is Your Brain on Nature,” story by Florence Williams, National Geographic, January 2016


“How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain,” by Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, July 22, 2015

“Stanford Researchers Find Mental Health Prescription: Nature,” by Rob Jordan, Stanford News, June 30, 2015

Over the past few decades we have continued to spend less time outdoors and today spend on average 11 hours a day interacting with media (https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2018/time-flies-us-adults-now-spend-nearly-half-a-day-interacting-with-media/). Our children are growing up spending less time in nature and are left with nature deficit disorder, a term coined by Richard Louv in his book, “Last Child in the Woods.”


And with the erratic weather events we are experiencing due to climate change, the earth is calling us to change our ways.


In Japan doctors are prescribing time in nature as a remedy for various ailments. They have a long tradition in Japan of “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku, so Ecotherapy is more ingrained in their culture.


Nature is a free and readily accessible antidote to so many of our problems so it makes sense that we might want to spend more time there.


COVID-19 has kept up us cooped up in our homes for over a year, but that narrative is shifting as the vaccines roll out across the world. It’s a new year and spring is here, so the improving weather will call to us and remind us that it’s time to get outside and get our kids outside too. Will you heed the call?


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