Ask the Experts: How Nature Helps Your Mind, Body & Spirit

Mountainside M Logo By Mountainside
People hugging tree with vines at Mountainside Treatment Center Alumni 2017 Costa Rica trip

By Casey Kiszka

Spending time outdoors can be a vital tool in restoring our mental, physical, spiritual, and overall sense of well-being. Regardless of how you choose to spend time connecting with nature, there are countless benefits to taking a pause from our busy lives and reconnecting with our surroundings. Activities such as hikes, bike rides, camping, going to the beach, or simply finding a quiet space to sit or lay outdoors can all provide you with amazing benefits.

Being in nature reduces feelings of anger, stress, anxiety, and depression while supporting pleasant attributes such as a positive mood, psychological well-being, and a more overall calm and balanced state of mind.

Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, but it also contributes to your physical well-being. Sunlight and time in nature help to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It also can improve the functioning of the immune system and increase the production of “feel good” hormones such as dopamine and endorphins. Getting adequate sunlight throughout the day can directly improve our sleep quality and help our bodies get into a more natural rhythm.

In addition to the benefits of simply being outside, many outdoor activities such as hiking, bike rides, canoeing, or gardening, are effective ways of exercising. The addition of physical activity to your time spent in nature adds to the numerous benefits received when engaging in a wide variety of outdoor activities.

Even if you decide to spend your time outdoors in a more relaxed state, there are still wonderful benefits to engaging in more serene activities. Simply sitting outside and practicing deep breathing or focusing on the view in front of you can have countless benefits. Due to the tranquil qualities of nature, staying present with your surroundings outside can help cultivate feelings of stillness, serenity, and peace. When in nature we are more likely to focus on what’s right in front of us which helps to increase mindfulness and calm our overactive minds.

Regardless of the activity, or lack thereof, you choose to engage in during your time outdoors, nature can inspire feelings of meaningfulness, vitality, self-attunement, and empathy. All of which can lead to a sense of connection to both others and our environment.

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