So it turns out that civilization has its downsides. Ever since man started using fire, he’s been getting burned by it. But some of the perils associated with technology, many of which have been covered in my previous posts, are relatively recent developments. Perhaps the most recent of these, other than video game addiction, is all of the health risks that come from spending time indoors or in urban environments.
There is an increasing body of research that shows that spending time in natural environments, or even just looking at natural scenes, has incredible healing properties. Here are just a few of the health benefits that have been documented by clinical research:
- Reduced sense of depression, fear, anxiety and stress
- Increased sense of well-being
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Improves musculoskeletal health
- Reduces the tendency to focus on negative thoughts or emotions
- Increases attentiveness
- Decreased aggression
What’s so encouraging about this is that these positive effects were independent of physical activity. Simply being in a natural environment produces all of these effects. Some of these benefits were even observed in cases where plants were introduced into a person’s home or hospital room!
This is such an easy phenomenon to take advantage of that it hardly requires me to provide a list of suggestions for doing so. How many times do we eat inside on a perfectly warm, still and sunny evening? How often do we spend break times at work cooped up inside? Do we habitually spend hour upon hour sitting in front of the television? We spend a large amount of money building gigantic houses and buying enormous entertainment systems to make it as easy as possible to spend all of our time inside. Yet, we already live on a gigantic sensation called Earth, filled with wonders beyond imagination. We take for granted the marvels of art and engineering in the form of plants and animals that most of us have barely begun to get acquainted with.
Sometimes, if you want to be healthy, all you have to do is stop trying so hard not to be. What changes can you make in your day-to-day life to spend less time indoors and more time outside?