If you follow me on Instagram, there is a good chance you caught my post the other day about being in a “creative slump”. And while this feeling has been known to come and go over the years, I have been trying to pinpoint why it does. I think I have found the answer… it’s lack of nature. YUP good old-fashioned naturey goodness. Naturey is a word right? If not it totally should be.
My schedule has been a hectic one lately. I have taken up a super early 5 AM- 9 AM shift Monday through Friday and still continue to work with my own clients for my web design company. While I am not complaining at all about being busy, I have noticed that I am feeling a bit dragged down and uncreative lately. When I get home from work I am generally focused on my web or graphic stuff and by the time 2 PM hits I am dog tired and just want to nap. Before I took that shift, I would be in nature at 2 PM.
I have also noticed due to summer holidays and people being away and such, my lack of hiking on the weekends and exploring new places has been minimal, which will be changing starting tomorrow! But I also have noticed that I am extremely selfish with my nature. Yup, that’s right… I don’t want to share it with anyone, and summer means jam packed trails, beaches, mountains and so forth. This has also hindered me a bit because I like to go and actually hear and feel nature, not hear some kid screaming.
According to new research reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, there is now scientific proof that walking in nature and spending time under leafy shade trees causes electrochemical changes in the brain that can lead people to enter a highly beneficial state of “effortless attention.”
Well plainly put, you destress, relax and can actually cause your state of mental balance to be restored. We can all attest to feeling stressed and feeling the urge to get away to escape the situation. Some of us hermit in our beds, and some of us go into nature to seek solitude. It turns out that going for a walk in the park is a double whammy and is actually one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical heath.
Now before you say “duh, how the hell did you not figure that one out before?”, understand this; I know nature is good for you, I know that it’s important on several levels to help heal your mind, body and soul. There have been heaps of papers, journals, websites you name it published about the effects of nature on our bodies, and really unless you are outside and you freeze to death, there really aren’t many negatives. But sometimes we just need to remind ourselves why it’s important to spend time outdoors in nature. Whether it’s a walk in the park, a long hike or even just laying in the forest, here is a list of reasons you need to get out there.
Stop making excuses
Yup.. totally guilty of that, see above. I love exploring. I crave it. I do however need to pick and choose my explorations well. Hiking alone depending on where can be dangerous and it’s nice to go with someone. But no more excuses. Even if it’s a casual walk down by the river, I know it’s good for me and the doggies are always down for a walk.
It can help if you are feeling depressed
Depression can creep out of nowhere. And while it’s totally normal to have up and down days, adding some nature time to your daily routine is linked to enhanced mental health and positivity as well as significantly lowers the level of depression and stress. So if you have had a bad day, feeling stressed, or having a mental block. Go for a walk in nature.
Make Exercising fun
Hate going to the gym? I know I sure do. Did you know that A study from Glasgow University showed that people who walked, biked, or ran in nature had a lower risk of poor mental health than people who worked out indoors. Yeah wow.. that’s a biggy. Also did I happen to mention that nature is free?
Helps you think clearly
Mental cloudiness happens to all of us. I like to call this “brain mush”. According to a study published in Psychological Science, interacting with nature gives your brain a break from everyday overstimulation, which can have a restorative effect on your attention levels. So next time you are feeling stumped and not sure what to do, go do nature. It will help you think clearly.
Helps Strengthen your Immunity
So nature is actually good for your body? How so?
Did you know that spending time in nature can help boost and strengthen your immunity? Did you know that Researchers at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School found that women who spent six hours in the woods over the course of two days had an increase in virus- and tumor-fighting white blood cells, and the boost lasted at least seven days afterwards.
If you can’t make it, fake it
I understand that getting out in nature isn’t always 100% feasible. I am extremely lucky that I live in a city that has many parks, and green spaces. Our weather is mild so that means I can be outside year round without the above mentioned “freezing to death”, or feeling like you will freeze to death.
So what do you do when you can’t escape the daily grind or you live in the heart of an urban city without much nature?
Well according to our friends in the Korean Journal of Radiology… you “fake it”. The study concluded that people who were shown pictures of scenic, natural landscapes had heightened activity in areas of the brain associated with recall of happy memories compared to people shown urban landscapes. So find some outdoor shots you love and surround yourself with them. Adding your fave as a desktop background is always a good idea too. Even putting some soothing nature sounds on for a few minutes will help transport you into nature.
So there you have it. I am sure deep down inside we all know that time spent in nature is always time spent well, but now you have some facts to back it up. So what are you waiting for? Put down your phone, turn off your social media, go out there and find a good spot to hunker down and read a book. Go for a walk. Sit by the river. Just go be in nature. I know it’s exactly what I am going to do.