There are many things you can do to help you age as well as possible – but did you know that spending time in nature is one of them? Being outdoors, getting some fresh air and sunshine, smelling the flowers, feeling the breeze and seeing all the beauty around you can have strong healing powers.
Spending time in nature offers the following benefits.
Reduction in stress levels
It’s true – getting out in nature can have a strong stress-reduction affect. Studies have repeatedly shown that our stress levels fall within minutes of just seeing green spaces, and that effect increases when we actually get out there. No matter what we’re doing – walking, running or just being present – being in green spaces will decrease feelings of fatigue, depression and anger, and will surprisingly also increase our attention levels.
Your mental health will certainly improve with repeated contact with nature, and research has shown that people moving from urban to greener areas displayed an improvement in mental health that was immediate – and that lasted for at least three years. And if you’re still in the workforce, research has also shown that workers perform better and with more accuracy when experiencing the calming influence of nature.
And what’s more, additional benefits are still being discovered.
A natural antidepressant
Our feelings of happiness and serenity naturally increase when we come into contact with the natural world. Researchers have repeatedly found that simply being in nature makes us happy. Symptoms of anxiety, depression and anger can be significantly reduced just by spending time outdoors. Getting out into natural spaces generally makes you feel happier, more relaxed and more peaceful – and without any need for medication or therapy. Nature is fantastic for your mental health.
A healing effect
Surprisingly, being in nature can actually heal you. Green time improves your physical wellbeing by reducing your heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones. This can help you heal quicker and reduce your mortality, with nature working as a natural “drug” for those who are regularly exposed to natural light. Plus, spending time in the sun helps your body create vitamin D, which plays a role in preventing cancer, heart attacks and osteoporosis.
Being in nature actually changes how your nervous, endocrine and immune systems work – some truly startling benefits that can be gained just by stepping outside.
Greater chance for exercise and recreation
Being outdoors gives you many chances to participate in sport, exercise or recreation – all vital components of good health and happiness. Just by getting out in nature, you’re more likely to be doing something active, and as we all know, too much time sitting down is deadly. And when we combine physical activity with nature, it can also help fight anxiety and depression.
Being outside is no magic diet pill, but, as mentioned above, it makes exercise more likely – and more enjoyable. It may speed up your metabolism and increase your weight loss, particularly if you exercise outdoors regularly.
Greater chance to interact with others
As above, just getting outside increase your chances of interacting with others. Whether you’re going for a bushwalk in a scenic beauty area or just walking around your neighbourhood, you have the opportunity to talk and interact with those you come across. And it’s so important for older people to stay connected with those around them, as the temptation can be to withdraw as you get older. Nature often equals connection – to each other and the larger world – and that’s a very good thing.
Nature has some wonderful anti-ageing effects, with studies showing that older people who spend time outdoors have fewer sleep difficulties. As well, they enjoy better mobility and an improved ability to perform their daily activities, as well as lower pain levels. They are also likely to be able to concentrate better, have an improved memory and to actually stay more youthful.
There’s never been a better time to enjoy the benefits of nature – or a bigger need for it. Getting a bit of “green time” every day provides a host of health, happiness and wellbeing benefits that can add up to an improved quality of life for older people, and make your world a better and happier place. Make sure you get out into the great outdoors sometime soon and enjoy a good dose of healthy green happiness!
Here at Finley Regional Care, we love our gardens, and are happy to see our residents using and enjoying them on a regular basis. Click here to read more about the importance of gardens in aged care.