If you can’t get enough of the great outdoors and constantly spend time in nature, good news. While it may come as no surprise, spending time in nature has therapeutic and healing effects. For many people suffering from physical or emotional ailments, the best medicine isn’t found in a pill bottle but rather in the forest, at the shores of the ocean or at the top of a mountain. Read on to discover the healing effects of nature and which illnesses benefit most from being outdoors.
For children suffering from ADHD, spending time in green spaces has proven to ease symptoms. According to research findings from the University of Urbana-Champaign, children with ADHD showed better concentration and an overall reduction of symptoms after they had been outdoors.
For those attempting to recover from a drug or alcohol addiction, being outside has very positive effects. Recovering addicts who spend a majority of their time indoors are prone to loneliness and boredom, both which are common triggers for substance abuse. Thus, spending significant time indoors can often cause a relapse.
Going outside, however, can often bring those recovering from addiction a sense of freedom and an escape from their more harmful thoughts or desires. Also, being in the outdoors, whether it’s sitting at a picnic table for 20 minutes, going for a walk or taking a hike, can help to improve mental health, a vital factor in recovery.
For individuals suffering from depression, immersion in the outdoors can provide a healing experience unlike any of the other common therapies that exist today. Working through very real and tangible challenges in nature — like starting a fire or completing a difficult hike — can boost self-esteem and self-efficacy. Further, planning to spend time in nature in the future and the anticipation of completing more outdoor challenges helps to counteract the hopelessness people fighting depression often feel, along with boosting mood.
For those who suffer from sleepless nights, taking a hike can help catch much needed z’s. Spending time in the outdoors helps the body take in vitamin D from the sun. Along with a host of other benefits, the right amount of vitamin D can help those suffering from insomnia to sleep better. Also, if the time spent outdoors involves rigorous activity like hiking, biking and rock climbing, a better night’s sleep can be almost guaranteed.
Overarching Health Benefits
Aside from helping to alleviate the symptoms of a host of disorders and illnesses, spending time in nature also has numerous other healing effects. Going outdoors has been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress. According to some research studies, adults who spend time in the outdoors have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who stay indoors.
Just as a reduction of stress can lead to better sleep, mental health and physical well-being, reducing stress by spending time outdoors can have many positive effects. Getting outside can also promote better overall physical fitness: For many people, time outside is spent engaged in physical activity (such as taking a walk, gardening, biking or going for a hike), and benefits gleaned can include a lower risk of heart disease, a lower BMI and a higher metabolism.
If you’re suffering from a physical or mental malady and feel that your only solution is a prescription, think again. Getting a daily dose of the outdoors can help alleviate the symptoms of many different ailments and increase overall health and physical well-being. So before you rely fully on pills to medicate, get outdoors and enjoy nature’s healing effects.