As a species, we have evolved to rely heavily on technology. Most of us spend most of our time in front of screens whether we are working or playing. We there is a big disconnect between human existence and the natural world. We belong in nature, we started there. Yet we have moved away from it, building our cities higher and higher, grouping together. It is a terrible loss, this disconnect. In our existential search for peace and balance, we have cut out one of the most important parts of life in its full, rounded homeostasis. It’s as if we’re trying to win a footrace with a broken leg.
In theory, the gap between nature and the human race contributes to the development of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. When we take the time to go outside and commune with nature, we reap the benefits of a free, natural solution to many of our mental discomforts. Dozens and dozens of researchers have compiled mountains of evidence that points to the physical and psychological benefits of spending time in green spaces.
Whether you take 15 minutes to go for a stroll in the park or you take all day to go for a hike in the wilderness, you will most likely experience lower stress, improved attention, better mood, reduced risk psychiatric disorders, and even increased empathy and cooperation.
Interacting with nature also has cognitive benefits. When a person is exposed to natural environments, they experience improved working memory, cognitive flexibility, and attentional control. This is much different than exposure to Urban environments, which causes attention deficit.
The biophilia hypothesis argues that since our ancestors developed in the wild and depended on natural environments for survival, we have an innate drive to connect to and interact with nature. The stress reduction hypothesis suggests that when we connect to nature, we experience a physiological response that reduces our stress levels. The attention restoration theory posits that nature replenishes a person’s cognitive ability and helps them pay attention and concentrate better.
It couldn’t be a combination of factors that makes up the correlation between spending time in nature and cognitive function. But no matter what the actual cause, the link is powerful. But there are also existential and emotional benefits that go along with contact with nature. It is associated with an increase in happiness and subjective well-being, positive social interactions and positive affect as well as a sense of purpose and meaning to life and a decrease in mental distress.
Connectedness to nature’s something that everybody should develop in their lifetimes. It has many benefits. It improves cognitive function, social interactions, existential and emotional improvement, and others. Spending time in green or blue spaces is good for us. It counts as self-care too. Reduce stress by taking a walk out in nature. Researchers have taken a shot at determining the amount of time necessary to spend in nature in order to reap the benefits. A good guess is that if you get 2 hours per week out in the green or blue spaces you will see much improvement in your mental state.
Until next time,