Take a Hike: How Nature Affects Our Health

nature affects our health

It’s no secret that in today’s technological age, people are longing to disconnect and head out into nature to feel better. Nature has been known to have healing properties, whether from the plants harvested to make medicinal concoctions or from the sheer pleasure that you feel from hiking up a mountain and enjoying the view. It’s like a breath of fresh air, the way nature affects our health.

Researchers are intrigued by our connection to nature, which is why several research studies have been conducted to figure out why we just feel so good when we’re out in the wilderness. On such study is that of John Zelenski and Elizabeth Nisbet, who use the term nature relatedness to describe how humans connect to the natural world. Among the happiness scales used, the link between happiness and nature was one of the highest. The conclusions of this study:

Suggest that “nature relatedness has a distinct happiness benefit” beyond the more generalized benefit of feeling connected to family, friends, and home. Our connection to nature also correlated with most measures of human well-being, indicating it may play an extremely important role in maintaining positive mental health.

Another study done by Stanford researchers suggests that walking in nature could be key to lowering depression. Participants of the study who walked in a grassland like setting had decreased activity in the area of the brain associated with a key factor of depression than those participants who walked in an urban setting.

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Being in nature, or even just seeing pictures or paintings of it, has been shown to reduce stress, anger, anxiety, and fear; it increases positivity, mindfulness, productivity, and attention span. Physically, being out in the world lowers blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rate, and obesity.

Healing ourselves by heading out into the wilderness also heals the wilderness…ideally. When we realize how important the natural world is to our well being, we begin taking better care of it. Think about the recent influx of electric cars and renewable energy and other green initiatives–people are finally realizing that the Earth is dying and we must save her, for her sake and ours.

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As cities grow and take over the natural landscape, animals, like this giraffe at the Nairobi National Park, are being forced out of their natural habitats.

Additionally, after all this research about the benefits of being outside, urban planning is beginning to change to incorporate more green space. Over half the world’s population lives in urban areas, and people from those urban populations have higher risks for anxiety and mood disorders. Chicago is a great example of a city that has devoted city area to green space, with 8.5% of its total area being parks (the official motto of Chicago has been Urbs in horto, Latin for “City in a garden” for its commitment to parkland).

So if you’re feeling blue, get out there and enjoy the fresh air, sun, and trees. You can also check out this other awesome nature-related Metiza post to continue hyping up your outdoor spirit.


Also published on Medium.