HCA Midwest Health - July 12, 2023

It’s the time of the year that, for many of us, we are starting to get outside into nature and enjoy more pleasant weather. Did you know that exploring nature is not only beneficial for you physically but also mentally?

Nature has a very broad definition. It can mean traditional green spaces like a park or the plants or flowers in your private garden. It can include trees on an urban street, a drive through a rural area, or even a houseplant. Even watching nature documentaries or sitting indoors in a sunny room can produce a sense of relaxation and have many benefits.

  1. Increased movement:Going outdoors to walk, garden, or even visit a neighbor is a simple way to increase your step count. The variety of activities is excellent for stimulating the parts of our brain that elevate mood, help us sleep, and are a more enjoyable way to meet exercise recommendations.

  2. Smile, and the world smiles back: Time in nature is associated with increased happiness, well-being, and a sense of purpose in life, according to the American Psychological Association. Sunlight increases our body’s production of serotonin, the happy hormone leading to elevated mood and less depression.

  3. Community: Outside provides many options, such as walking groups or even outdoor events. Inviting a friend to explore a new trail, walking to or near a new coffee shop, or heading to the local zoo are all great ways to connect.

  4. All-natural supplements:Just 20 minutes in unrestricted sunlight can help the body absorb 2000 mg of Vitamin D. This nutrient is essential to strengthen your bones and immune system and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. With almost half of US adults deficient in Vitamin D, sunlight is a vital medicine!

  5. Get better zzzzz’s:A study published in Preventive Medicine showed that increasing the amount of time you spend outdoors can improve sleep quality and quantity. Time in nature will help you relax and create natural tiredness and feelings of calm.

  6. Improve your memory: Some research has highlighted that time in nature can improve your ability for memory recall as well as improve your focus. This research also encourages you to skip the headphones and tune into your surroundings.

  7. Better breathing: Although many people experience seasonal allergies or asthma, getting outdoors can be ideal for fresh air.

  8. Natural pain relief: Humans are naturally programmed to spend time in nature, and even when it’s created in a picture, computer screen saver, or a sound machine, research shows that it reduces feelings of pain and discomfort. While scientists aren’t sure if this is due to feelings of distraction or discomfort, it is a valuable strategy for recovering from surgery or treatments.

Being outside can provide a variety of ways to be present with yourself and your thoughts. It could be smelling the flowers, feeling the sun on your face, or listening to the birds sing. Finding peace and being mindful in the moment is excellent for physical and mental well-being.

Spending time in nature should be part of your regular routine but we recommend a few precautions as you adventure. If you are heading outdoors in the summer months, we recommend that you wear sunscreen of at least 35 SPF and wear breathable clothes to cover exposed skin, including your head, neck, and ears. Make sure to increase your hydration and avoid hotter times of the day if you are sensitive to heat.

Try one or more of these tips to improve your wellness today!

The cancer support program at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Midwest Health is a resource for you living with, through and beyond cancer.