By Thrive Wellness Director of Nursing Liz Lass, RN, CEDRN, CPT
For many, spending time in nature instinctually seems beneficial, and research has consistently proven the value often intuitively placed on connecting with nature to be true. In other words, any natural landscape has the power to support holistic wellness — body, mind, and spirit.
THE PHYSICAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF SPENDING TIME IN NATURE
Whether it’s a brief walk in the community park on your lunch break or a ten-day backpacking trip in the wilderness, any time in nature is correlated with increased physical activity, which can promote improved blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health, decrease the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases, strengthen bones and muscles, increase joint mobility, and enhance brain health and memory. Additionally, individuals who spend more time outside tend to soak up more vitamin D from the sun, which can help strengthen their immune systems and bones among other benefits.
THE MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF SPENDING TIME IN NATURE
Spending time in nature influences a person not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. Research shows that those who spend more time in nature have lower levels of cortisol (also known as the “stress hormone”) which can cultivate feelings of relaxation.
- A sense of meaning and purpose in life
- Decreased mental distress
- Increased happiness
- Subjective sense of well-being
- Positive affect, or an individual’s subjective experience of positive moods such as joy, interest, and alertness.
- Positive social interactions
Another study found that time in nature can also help fend off feelings of loneliness and social isolation. While surrounded by nature, one may feel a sense of reciprocity with Mother Earth and gain a deeper understanding that all living beings are part of something bigger than ourselves. This sense of connection can infiltrate other aspects of our lives by encouraging acts of kindness, generosity, and empathy not only towards the environment but to others as well.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR EXPERIENCE IN NATURE
So you can reap all the benefits of experiencing nature, consider the tips below.
- Make it fun: Research has shown that spending at least two recreational hours in nature during the week significantly improves general health and well-being. “Recreational” is the key word. When deciding how to implement nature into your life, do your best to make sure the experience brings you joy.
- Practice mindfulness: Try to remain present and mindful when spending time outdoors by engaging your senses to observe and absorb the experience, maybe noticing what you see, hear, and smell. It may help to refrain from using your phone, so you can tune in to the awe-inspiring world around you.
- Take advantage of urban resources: If you live in an urban area with limited access to nature or outdoor recreational areas, utilizing community parks, walking paths, and bike paths can positively impact mood and overall health in similar ways to time spent in the great outdoors.
- Try alternative ways to engage with nature: If limited mobility or chronic illness impacts your ability to actively get outside, you can still connect with nature. Research has found that even watching nature documentaries or listening to nature sounds such as rainstorms or crashing waves can have a calming effect and improve mood.
NURTURING WELL-BEING AT THRIVE WELLNESS
While nature can be a helpful strategy for boosting your overall well-being on your own, sometimes professional care is required to adequately nurture physical, mental, and emotional health. At Thrive Wellness, our clinicians can incorporate nature into your treatment, a stratgey that’s oftentimes effective at fostering openness and relaxation in clients who may feel less willing to share their inner experiences in a therapy office. Additionally, our therapists can help you explore ways to connect with nature outside of therapy to enhance your health. Based on your preferences, we integrate health care according to your needs so that your entire being can be nourished and enriched for optimal personal growth. Reach out to learn more about our collaborative care services.
About the Author
Thrive Wellness Director of Nursing Liz Lass, RN, CEDRN, CPT
Liz Lass, RN, CEDRN, CPT, is Thrive’s director of nursing and is truly passionate about working with the eating disorder community. Liz earned her bachelor’s of science in nursing from the University of Nevada, Reno, and bachelor’s in science in exercise and sport science from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. Liz is a certified eating disorder registered nurse (CEDRN) and has 9 years of experience working with the eating disorder population. Liz is also a certified personal trainer and is passionate about integrating her background of exercise science into her practice through mindful movement and helping clients heal their relationship with exercise. Her dynamic role at Thrive Wellness includes performing nursing assessments, providing meal support, leading groups, consultations, and assisting prescribers at Thrive Wellness with coordination of care between agencies, pharmacies, and laboratories. In her free time, Liz enjoys all that the Reno-Tahoe area has to offer, including skiing, hiking, biking, camping, wake-surfing, paddle boarding, and listening to live music. She grew up in Sun Valley, ID, and lives with her husband, two sons, and blue heeler in Verdi, NV.