Summer is upon us and while the temperatures are high, there is an invigorating shift that comes with the heat waves. Evidence of the positive effects of spending time in nature is bountiful, so today we’ll discuss the impact of nature on mental health and ways to incorporate more of it into your daily life to improve your family’s well-being.

The Healing Power of Nature

Much research has been done on the healing properties of spending time outdoors. The benefits have a broad range of physical, cognitive and emotional improvements. Significant shifts in focus, memory and behavior can be attributed to exposure to nature. In one study conducted in Denmark, children that had abundant access to green spaces were 55% less likely to develop mental illness when they got older. Spending time outdoors is shown to produce feelings of awe and happiness, which in turn makes us more productive and impacts how we show up in social situations. Those who feel happy and connected to life tend to be more generous and cooperative. The oxygen intake from walking outdoors is shown to increase serotonin production, boost heart and bone health, and decrease the stress hormone cortisol. Did you know that when the sun hits our skin, it actually uses the cholesterol in our skin cells to convert that energy into Vitamin D, an essential nutrient for our immune health? Even the sounds of nature are shown to reduce stress and improve focus. All of these benefits and more can be experienced with just two hours per week of time outside.

Ocean or Mountains?

The perks of spending time in green spaces (i.e. land abundant in trees and other foliage) and blue spaces (i.e. land with abundant aquatic spaces like oceans or lakes) are shown to have similar effects. A nice walk or bike ride for 20-30 mins a day could be just what you need to get a fresh perspective for your day. Instead of tv or a podcast as background noise or visuals, try a nature sound compilation video on YouTube or whichever streaming services you use most. A weekly visit to your favorite local park or hiking trail could also be rejuvenating. Even time at a public or private pool can serve as a great way to get outside!

Bring Nature to You

Some of us may have limited options for outdoor exploration, but there are several great ways to bring nature to you. Pinterest has tons of great resources for starting a balcony, windowsill, or raised bed garden for your patio. Low-maintenance houseplants are also an awesome way to fill your home with greenery, and teach your children the value of nature. There are so many lessons to be learned by caring for plants or tending to a garden that will encourage us and our kids to value life outside of ourselves. Chromotherapy or colorology studies the effects certain colors can have on our mood and productivity as well. These studies show that there are even benefits to just having the color green, blue or yellow in the decor we use in our homes. Color-changing light bulbs, the paint on the walls and the images we hang around our house can have a similar effect as spending time outdoors. 

We hope you found this information helpful, and it inspires you and your family to spend some quality time in the great outdoors this summer!