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Guess What? Spending Time in Nature Actually Improves Your Mental Health & Productivity

When was the last time you went outside just to enjoy nature? If it’s been a while, it might be time to head outdoors — especially if your mental health or productivity could use a boost.

That’s because nature has been shown time and again to have healing benefits to those who simply spend time in the fresh air, around lush foliage, taking in incredible landscapes. Even if you live in a city, you can probably find some sort of awe-inspiring natural oasis where you, too, can reap the benefits.

But what exactly are the benefits of spending time in nature? Here are four ways the outdoors can improve your mental health and stoke your productivity.

  1. Nature Reduces Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is “public health enemy number one,” according to Psychology Today. That’s because the hormone — released when we’re stressed out — can weaken the immune system, decrease bone density, inspire weight gain, spike blood pressure, block memory-making and increase the risk of heart disease.

An easy way to reduce cortisol levels in your body is to take a walk in a forest. One Japanese study measured participants’ cortisol levels before breakfast, before walking through a forest and then again right after. They found that a woodland stroll helped reduce cortisol levels plus slow their pulses and lower participants’ blood pressure.

In other words, a simple walk through the woods can make you feel a lot less stressed and just plain good!

  1. Nature Refreshes Your Mind

Day after day spent at the office can get repetitive. On top of that, work can be hard. All of that combined may have you feeling like your mind can no longer do its job, also known as “mental fatigue.”

The good news is, researchers have found an easy way to give your brain the breath of fresh air it needs. All you have to do is spend time in a restorative environment. You can probably guess that means heading outside and enjoying the sunlight, the foliage and maybe even some wildlife that happens to run by.

This is especially true if you happen to find a truly awe-inspiring sight within nature. Not only will it help you hit the mental “refresh” button, but it will also have you making more altruistic and less materialistic decisions.

  1. Nature Makes You More Positive

The time you spend in nature is time you invest in yourself. That alone will have you feeling more positive. And a positive attitude can help you conquer anything from a tough workplace assignment or a jitter-inducing first date to drug and alcohol addiction recovery.

Scientists tested nature’s ability to improve one’s mood and outlook after realizing that nature could inspire cognitive gains. They worked with a sample of participants who suffered from depression, so they hypothesized that nature walks could either improve mood or give their subjects more time for rumination, thus making their moods worse.

What they found was that participants showed increases in mood after their walks. And, although they’re not directly correlated, nature walks also helped improve subjects’ memory span.

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  1. Nature Inspires Productivity

Finally, a little bit of nature can go a long way if you’re hoping to improve your productivity. Think about what you already know and it makes a lot of sense: if nature refreshes you, improves your mood and makes you less stressed out, you’ll have a much easier time diving into work and working hard.

It’s easy to reap the effects of nature, too, even if you can spend all day working outdoors. Simply having a view to the outdoors or cultivating an office plant to occasionally look at will make you more productive. Natural light can have the same wondrous effect.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, the color green itself is a spur for creativity. One German study found that simply looking at a green rectangle improved subjects’ performance in creative tasks, while those looking at white, blue, gray or red rectangles had much less success. In other words, the mere color of nature is enough to make you more productive.

Sooooo,….It’s Time to Get Outside!

Clearly the power of nature is very strong, and its many benefits are more than enough incentive to spend time outside. So retire your Netflix account for the night, throw on some sneakers and get out there! It’s time to take advantage of what the Earth has to offer you.




This Women of Green guest blog is by Megan Ray Nichols. Megan writes about many environmental topics including, renewable energy, conservation and sustainability. She invites you to join the discussion on her own blog, Schooled By Science.



Women of Green is TURNING UP THE VOLUME of the feminine voice on the planet in order to create the world we know is possible.

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