I often talk about the many health benefits of spending time in Nature. And there’s no time like spring to heed “the call of the wild.”
Spending time in Nature has always been a big part of the American experience. In fact, it didn’t take long for the first settlers to move from huddling on the sea ports to exploring the vast, trackless wilderness just a short distance inland. Over time, they continued further West, pushing back the frontier.
Being in Nature was also a key part of Thomas Jefferson’s concept of the agrarian democracy. He believed that in a healthy society, people should live on—and with—the land. He also cautioned against the unhealthy effects of living in dense, urban environments. Plus, land ownership allowed people to live independently, as compared to the rigid social structure in Europe, from which they were trying to escape.
Of course, at the end of the 1800s, the American frontier “closed,” as there was no more open, uncharted land left to explore. So, people began to settle more in urban areas.
But over time, many people began feeling compelled to “escape” these overpopulated urban areas to experience Nature again. This is when transcendental environmentalist John Muir and others introduced the idea of getting out into the “wilderness.”
Many doctors even began prescribing the “Nature cure” for their patients with a variety of ailments—including depression and lung diseases. Philadelphia neurologist (and novelist) S. Weir Mitchell advocated the “rest cure” and the “West cure,” both of which simply involved sending patients to wilderness resorts for rest, recuperation, and recovery.
And as it turns out, the “Nature cure” is supported by several science-backed findings:
1.) More vitamin D
Getting out in Nature exposes you to sunshine, which has many health benefits. For one, exposure to sunshine will activate your body’s natural production of vitamin D. In fact, spending 10 to 15 minutes every day in the sun without sunscreen can significantly jumpstart your body’s natural vitamin D production.
Plus, studies link sun exposure to dramatic reductions in the risk of several types of cancers, as well as autoimmune diseases, bone diseases, depression, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. (You can learn more about the benefits of sunshine in the April 2019 issue of my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter [“URGENT ALERT: The life-saving reason why you need to get outside this month”]. If you’re not yet a subscriber to my newsletter, now is the perfect time to get started.)
2.) Boosts physical activity
Being outdoors also facilitates being physically active. In fact, as I reported on the first day of spring, walking, hiking, and moving through natural environments is much more enjoyable and beneficial than running monotonously on man-made surfaces or “working out” in an indoor gym.
3.) Boosts mental & physical health
Studies show people who spend more time in Nature have fewer chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and Type II diabetes.
In addition, being in Nature benefits mental health. In fact, research shows men and women who exercise outdoors consistently perform better on psychological tests than those who perform the same amount of exercise indoors. They score higher on enthusiasm, pleasure, self-esteem, and vitality. And they score lower on depression, fatigue, and tension. People who exercise outdoors also have lower levels of cortisol—the chronic stress hormone.
4.) Reduces crime in urban areas
Studies show that spending time in urban parks (green spaces)—or simply living on a city street with more trees—benefits mental and physical health.
When I lived and worked in Philadelphia, I always admired its beautiful urban parks. They differed from other major American cities, which typically allocated green spaces outside the city. But Philadelphia’s green spaces were developed inside the city for the enjoyment of residents.
William Penn actually laid out the city as a “green country town.” And he included many green spaces—such as Washington Square, Rittenhouse Square, and Logan Square—which residents still enjoy to this day.
I’m particularly impressed by one recent study conducted in Philadelphia to analyze the impact of green space within the city…
For this study, city officials targeted 541 vacant lots. They cleaned and removed the trash in the first group of vacant lots and planted new grass and trees. In the second group of lots, they cleaned up, but they didn’t plant any new greenery. And the third group of lots were simply left untouched.
It turns out, overall crime rates dropped by 13 percent near the newly green lots. Plus, gun violence specifically dropped by an impressive 30 percent.
So there’s no doubt in my mind that spending time in Nature is a powerful cure-all…it can even reduce crime! And it certainly works better than today’s failed anti-depressants to help relieve stress and boost your mood.
So—try to spend a little time outside in Nature every day…even if you just pull a few weeds in the backyard or take a stroll down the street.
“Why “Getting Away” in Nature Is Good for Your Mental Health.” Scientific American, 11/7/2018. (scientificamerican.com/article/why-getting-away-in-nature-is-good-for-your-mental-health/
“The Benefits of Exercising Outdoors,” New York Times, 2/21/2013 (well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/the-benefits-of-exercising-outdoors/)