Is spending time in nature the key to a healthier, more fulfilling life?

The majority of people would agree that spending time in nature can be one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer. There is something magical about being surrounded by wilderness and connecting with that primal, fuss free side of life.  I know from looking back at my own experiences that there wasn’t many dilemmas a walk by the sea couldn’t tackle, and I never feel more invigorated and truly alive, than after spending a day outdoors. 

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.Tuning into nature has the tendency to put the little daily hassles into perspective as it highlights how little we need to be happy and how beautiful our planet can be.  It can also have a meditative effect; undertaking a simple activity such as a walk through the woods will be a feast for the senses we don’t regularly experience.  The sounds of the birds singing in the distance, the chirps of the insects nearby, the smell of pine, the deep and vivid colors, and the texture of the ground beneath to name a few.  Being in nature is also a literal breath of fresh air and this is perhaps the most direct benefit of all.  The rare opportunity to breathe in the cleanest possible oxygen away from the fumes of the city streets.  It’s sure to detoxify and reinvigorate the whole body.

Being connected to nature and “experiencing oneness” with that environment also has the potential to tackle the big life question of the meaning of life.  I recently came across an article in the Journal of Happiness Studies which found that wellbeing and nature connectedness are mediated by believing in the higher purpose of life[i].   The authors wrote:

It may be that those who are highly nature connected drive a sense of meaningful existence from their closeness with nature, and this in turn boosts their well-being”. Finding meaning in life is important because, in addition to connecting us to the greater whole and boosting our well-being, it’s also been shown to positively correlate with life satisfaction and an increased experience of positive emotions.

It’s often been said that the simplest things tend to make the most positive difference in our lives and so here is perhaps the easiest intervention of all to consider.  Making a conscious effort to spend a little more time outside could make such a positive contribution to out lives. Be it in going for lunch in the park, arranging a weekend hike in a nearby national park, or walking home via the longer, more scenic route, are just a few ideas.

Living in an urban environment makes getting out more challenging but spending an entire day outdoors should not be reserved just for the annual holiday considering the heap of positivity it can bring along.

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience"  Ralph Waldo Emerson

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[i] Howell, A. J., Passmore, H. A., & Buro, K. (2013). Meaning in nature: meaning in life as a mediator of the relationship between nature connectedness and well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(6), 1681-1696.