Getting out in nature and away from our stresses and worries always feels better but is there more to this than just a change of scenery? Whether you are currently going through a particularly stressful period such as an IVF cycle or just feeling the demands of everyday life getting out in nature will provide a range of benefits.
Over the years many studies have been done about the impact nature has on our health. In fact, way back in 2010 Beyond Blue published a literature review titled ‘Beyond Blue to Green: The Health Benefits of Contact with Nature in a Park Context’. This review found that:
- Restricted access to nature may have serious negative effects on children’s physical, emotional and cognitive development.
- The serious health and well-being implications of reduced access to green, open spaces for people living in socio-economically disadvantaged areas is significant and warrants serious consideration in future urban renewal and development projects.
Did you know we are genetically programmed to find trees, plants, water, and other nature elements engrossing, being immersed in these environments immediately impacts how we feel as well as our physical health?
Here are some other reasons why you should be spending at least 2 hours a week in nature:
- It reduces stress levels and anxiety. In fact, even just viewing nature scenes can immediately lower our stress and allow us to feel better emotionally. It’s no surprise that what we are seeing, hearing and experiencing contributes to how we feel at any given moment. Medical studies have found that stress and the hormones that help regulate our body’s response to stress play a significant role in fertility as well.
- It helps us cope with pain. Physician Robert Ulrich conducted a study of patients who had undergone gall bladder surgery and found that those who had a view of trees rather than a wall outside their window tolerated pain better, have fewer negative effects and spent less time in hospital.
- Physical benefits. One study showed living in greener urban areas is associated with lower probabilities of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, asthma hospitalisation, mental distress, and ultimately mortality, among adults; and lower risks of obesity and myopia in children. Being outdoors also helps your body absorb more Vitamin D, which is both linked to fertility and healthy pregnancies (I had to go on Vit D supplements during my journey so anything you can to increase it naturally is great).
- Gives you a time out away from screens. “Nature deprivation’ is a real concern in our technological world and when you prioritise nature over screens you unlock a range of benefits, not least of which a chance to destress away from all the noise. A study published in 2011 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that time in front of a screen was associated with a higher risk of death.
- It’s functional movement. Forget the gym or online workout getting out in nature helps you move your body in the way it was intended to be moved. Climbing, hills, different surfaces, balancing, there is a huge range of movement every time we get out of our controlled indoor environments and out into nature and with it, incredible strength and mobility practice for our physical selves. These skills are great for you during both pregnancy and labour.
- Help you make social connections. As well as connecting with the larger world those who get out more in nature tend to connect with other people as well as animals more and build community and social groups. A 2015 study of 2,000 people in the United Kingdom found that more exposure to nature translated into more community cohesion and substantially lower crime rates.
- Helps your cognitive function, memory and productivity. According to some studies getting out in nature for just 20 minutes can have the same pick me up effect as a cup of coffee. Research conducted by a Melbourne University team found that taking ‘green booster breaks’ throughout the working day can give our mind the rest it needs to be more productive and happier. Researcher Dr Kate Lee said “We have shown the unique properties of natural views boost concentration to top up energy reserves so tasks feel less effortful. This means employees may feel and perform better at work”.
Getting out in nature feels good, it’s also proven to be good for our physical, emotional and mental health. The suggestion is 2 hours per week but if that feels unachievable to start with then find a number that works for you, plan it into your week and see what difference you can make in your health and wellbeing.