Do you want to improve your sense of good health and wellbeing?
Well, the results of a recent study suggest it may be as simple as spending more time outside in natural environments.
However the western world can make this difficult. Our lives are more divorced from nature than ever before. So much so that we have become these wonderfully organic organisms now living in inorganic bliss.
We sit on things we've developed for unsustainable periods of time. We willingly wear shoes that degrade the health and function of our feet. Stress is no longer fleeting, it's just there. Our go-to food and drink are rarely actual food and drink anymore. We cower from the sun and move heaven and earth to avoid any meaningful changes in temperature.
In short, we are living a very unnatural existence at the moment, and there may be strong consequences for our general health and wellbeing.
And if you keep an eye out there are a number of physical signs the modern world is taking a toll on you.
So it's interesting to read how beneficial exposure to nature can be.
We Aren't Outside in Nature Enough
Unfortunately, our relationship with nature is on the wane.
Staggeringly, it's suggested Americans spend upwards of 87% percent of their lives inside and a further 6% in a vehicle. That's 93% of each day obscured from the outside world. In simple terms this suggests we only spend approximately 100 minutes a day outside, out of the 1,440 available.
The sad thing is, this figure may even be a little low considering how busy some people are with work. There would be more than a few of us whose time outside constitutes the time it takes to get from the house to the car, the car to work and back again.
There aren't too many animals on earth who've divorced themselves as heavily from nature as we have.
We're Also Carrying a Heavy Mental Burden
Not only can the modern world keep us indoors, but it may be taking a toll on our mental health and wellbeing.
Across the world, 284 million people suffer an anxiety disorder. It's estimated to be between 2.5% and 7% of the population depending on the country. In the United States alone, 18% of people suffer an anxiety disorder. That's 40 million people over the age of 18.
Furthermore another 264 million people suffer from a depressive disorder.
Sadly our children aren't immune either. In the US, 1 in 4 between the ages of 13 and 18 have an anxiety disorder. That's a lot of kids having to deal with some very adult concepts. They deserve better.
As it stands, many of us are inside dealing with poor mental health. So it's fantastic to read the results of the study suggesting even just a little dose of nature can have a significant effect on our sense of good health and wellbeing.
Spend More Time Outside For Better Health and Wellbeing
The UK study collected information from the responses of almost 20,000 people. These responses were in relation to an official national survey on time spent in a natural environment. This included open spaces like parks, beaches, and the countryside but neglected things like gardening or trips to the shops.
Participants were asked to report on their sense of health and wellbeing over the previous seven days.
Pleasingly, the study found;
"the likelihood of reporting good health or high well-being became significantly greater with contact ≥120 mins."
And this held true regardless of gender, age, socioeconomic status, health, and physical fitness.
These benefits also seemed to peak between 3-5 hours a week with less impact thereafter.
Interestingly, how we accumulate our time in nature may not matter so much. The study suggested a longer block of time in a natural environment may be no different from shorter, more frequent ones.
With so many people affected by poor mental health, it's reassuring to know Mother Nature may have our backs. We just need to cultivate a better relationship with her.
And as much as modern living seems to revolve around being indoors it's important to keep these things in perspective. If we can begin to cultivate more time outdoors we may just give our sense of health and wellbeing and a huge boost. After all, it's literally out there waiting for us.
How many hours a week are you outside?
Let me know in the comments below!
- Mathew P. White, Ian Alcock, James Grellier, Benedict W. Wheeler, Terry Hartig, Sara L. Warber, Angie Bone, Michael H. Depledge, Lora E. Fleming. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific Reports, 2019; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3