This Summer lets go wild, get outside and enjoy the health benefits of nature. Nature can really help improve our physical and mental health and the more we embrace it, the more we will benefit.
With mental health problems on the rise in today’s society and more and more children suffering from stress and anxiety we owe it to ourselves and families to use the healing powers of nature. We need to all take time out from our stressful lives and enjoy some relaxation in our natural surroundings.
Why not get the whole family together to enjoy the great outdoors, breathe in the fresh air and feel the health benefits nature has to offer.
Health Benefits of Nature
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
With lifestyles getting busier and busier, a lot of us will start to feel the effects of stress and anxiety. These are not good for our bodies and can have adverse health effects and when suffered long term can leave us with mental health problems, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and even strokes.
However, don’t despair as there have been many studies showing how just spending between 10 – 50 minutes a day in nature can have dramatic effects on decreasing our stress levels.
A study carried out by Alan Ewert and Yun Chang that measured being active in different environments found that the location with the highest level of nature had the best results of reducing stress. (1)
Nature has the amazing ability to not only lower our stress levels but to help lift our mood. Breathing in the fresh air will raise the levels of oxygen in our brains and boost our serotonin levels, which are a neurotransmitter that alters our mood. (2)
In 2015 there was a study carried out on people that walked for 90 minutes a day that compared those that waked in an urban setting to those walking in nature. The study found that people walking in nature had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain linked with depression. (3)
To strengthen our immune system it needs to be continually challenged something that is hard to do when indoors. By spending time in nature you can increase your white blood cell count which are crucial to helping us battle away germs.
A study carried out in 2010 looked at the benefits nature had on a group of Japanese adults when they went on a 3-day trip to the forest. Researchers found that the trip increased their number of white blood cells and this increase stayed present for 30 days after their trip to the forest. (4)
Improves Our Focus
Staying close to nature or immersing ourselves in it regularly can help improve focus and attention span. This was founded in 1980’s by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan in the Attention Restoration Theory which found that staying close to nature re-energizes and reduces fatigue.
Being in nature will grab our positive attention without us even being aware of it and this process helps to restore the positive energy that are negative emotions had taken away. (5)
Ways to get out and enjoy nature
Here is a list of ways you can get out and enjoy nature this summer with the whole family –
Just getting out for a walk is a great way to enjoy nature and there is always so much to see. There are lots of set walks throughout the UK and with the wonder of the internet, you can find routes and walking trails before you leave. The National Trust has a list of UK walks and also the Forestry Commission has a list of woodland walks around the country.
Wild swimming is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in nature it is both invigorating and refreshing. This can be done in rivers, natural pools or even the sea. Here is a website with a list of places you go wild swimming. Wild swimming can also help boost your immune system and can decrease inflammation and pain (6). Please do check that it is a safe place to swim beforehand especially in a river.
The beach is wonderful relaxing natural environment. There is always something for everyone to enjoy and it is a perfect way to get out and enjoy the natural environment.
Pond dipping is a lot of fun and can teach you a lot about what lies below our rivers/ponds and is a very relaxing activity. Just listening to the trickling of the water can help calm any mood.
To find out more on pond dipping with children take a look at my other post the benefits of pond dipping.
Get the kids digging around in the dirt, looking under stones and in the plant pots to see what bugs they can find. This will help children understand about habitats and they get to see bugs up close. Playing in the dirt has health benefits and there have also been links to it helping fight depression.
Build a Den
Den building is a great activity that everyone can join in with, it will bring out the inner child in you. Whether you hunt for and collect your own materials to build a den or you go to a wood where materials have already been provided for you it will be an enjoyable activity for all.
Grow your own Vegetables
This is a lovely way to enjoy the outside world as a family. You can spend a day together planting your favourite fruit and vegetables and once planted everyone can watch them grow and tend to them. The best reason to grow your own fruit and vegetables is that you are rewarded with delicious homegrown produce which always tastes so much better than anything food you buy in shops.
Even if you don’t have a garden you can grow produce in pots and grow bags or go all out and get an allotment.
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