Puerto Princesa Underground River

New7Wonders of Nature

The importance of reconnecting with nature

The New 7 Wonders of Nature not only serve as a reminder of the awe-inspiring effect that nature can have on humans, but also of the wonder of nature’s healing power. According to a study carried out by the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter, people who spend a minimum of two hours in green spaces are more likely to report good physical and mental health. Matthew White, who led the study, said “It’s well known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and well-being, but until now we’ve not been able to say how much is enough. Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people, especially given that it can be spread over an entire week to get the benefit.”

While going out in your local park might not feel as exciting as visiting one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, the impact of such an outing on your well-being is still hugely beneficial. Here are seven benefits that you can get from spending more time in green spaces:

  1. A sense of connection: Observing the biodiversity present in the natural world and the systems in place that allow nature to function without human intervention reminds us that we are just one piece of the puzzle. “We clearly benefit from the diversity of organisms that we have learned to use for medicines, food, fibres, and other renewable resources,” Diaz et al. comment in a 2006 study on the impact that biodiversity loss could have on human wellbeing.
  2. Better health: Going outside and exercising in a natural setting can be hugely beneficial for your health. According to a study that focused on the correlation between where older people exercise and the amount of time they spend doing so, people who exercise outdoors tend to invest more time in physical activity. On average, over the seven-day period of the study, participants who exercised outside were reported to spend 30 minutes longer doing so. What is more, outdoor exercise increases the body’s vitamin-D intake, which our body needs to absorb calcium and promote strong, healthy bones. Running outside has also been proven to be more strenuous for the body than simply working out on a treadmill, meaning that it is also better for one’s health.
  3. A calming effect: Being outside in green spaces can reduce levels of cortisol, the hormone that makes us feel stressed, by around ten percent, according to a study published in the the journal Mental Health and Prevention. By observing animals in their natural habitats and appreciating the ecosystems in place in the world, people tend to feel less anxious and more grounded.
  4. Positivity: Did you know that nature also increases dopamine production and endorphin levels in your body? This means that time spent outside in green settings naturally boosts your mood, making you less easily irritated and generally more positive.
  5. A sense of community: When you venture outside, you see other people out walking their dogs, jogging and cycling. Spending time outside helps people to feel less lonely and more in touch with others.  It is also no coincidence that many companies choose to send their employees on outdoor team-building activities. Natural settings promote our sense of community.
  6. Healing: Spending time outside in green spaces actually helps you feel better in yourself. It can actively promote cancer-fighting cells, reduce depression, anxiety and ADHD symptoms, while also lowering your blood pressure, according to an article published in TIME on the healing power of nature.
  7. Improved memory: According to a study by the University of Michigan, walking outside in nature can improve your short-term memory loss. Participants did a memory test, and they were then split into two groups. One group went for a walk in an arboretum and the other group went for a walk down a city street. Both groups then did another memory test. After the second test, the participants who had been exposed to a natural environment scored 20 per cent better than they had before their walk. There was no consistent improvement in the results of those who had been for a walk in an urban environment.

Picture credit: Featured Image of Puerto Princesa Underground River: David Milmont/unsplash.com

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