By Hana Frenette
A walk through the neighborhood, trip to the beach or afternoon spent in the park can do wonders for your mood and sense of well-being. Dozens of studies show spending time in nature also provides a major boost to brain function and overall health. Take a look at the multitude of benefits from time spent outside.
Improved Concentration and Memory
Give your brain a breath of fresh air! Studies show the brain uses three times as much oxygen for healthy cognitive function as our muscles do, therefore time spent outside can aid in increasing oxygen intake, helping the brain function, grow and heal. Research also shows spending time around natural scenery and green space can increase concentration, focus and memory, particularly in people suffering from ADHD.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Spending time in nature and green spaces has been linked to reduced levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can result in a more relaxed and calm state of mind. The scent of freshly-cut grass, flowers and sea air can also work as a natural form of aromatherapy, providing a calming effect and subtle mood boost while warding off feelings of worry.
Nature sounds such as birds, leaves rustling in a breeze or the ocean have been shown to help lower blood pressure, which in turn lowers the body’s fight-or-flight response and reduces anxiety, promoting a calmer, happier overall mental state.
Improved Heart Health
Studies show spending time outside reduces blood pressure, which in turn reduces stress on the heart and improves heart function. A stroll through the park or the neighborhood also increases circulations and strengthens the heart, greatly reducing the risk of cardiac events and stroke.
Increased Vitamin D Levels
When sunlight hits the skin, our bodies begin the process of creating the biologically active form of Vitamin D. Dozens of studies have shown Vitamin D to have great disease-fighting properties, while also reducing inflammation and protecting against cancer, depression, heart attacks and stroke. Just 10-15 minutes outside without sunscreen on a sunny day can provide your body with enough exposure for positive benefits from Vitamin D. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen once the 15 minutes are up.
Boost Energy Levels
Research has shown people reported feeling more energetic and lively when spending time in nature. A series of studies shows just 20 minutes spent outside is enough to improve feelings of overall vitality and reduce feelings of exhaustion.
How much time do you need to spend outdoors regularly to feel the positive mental and physical effects of nature? Experts say 120 minutes a week, whether that’s broken up throughout the week or all at once on the weekend.
Service dogs are becoming more prevalent as we learn more about the positive impact that assistive animals can have on people with disabilities. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal is a working animal that is “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability”, which includes epilepsy.