It was the third day of my bachelor party camping trip. We were in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, and something was starting to happen to me.
At first, concerns about my psychological research projects and my wedding to-do list captured my attention, distracting me from the beauty of the lake and forest surrounding our campsite.
However, after just a few days away from modern civilization, the rejuvenating effect of nature filled me with serenity and comfort. The gentle breeze off the lake kept me cool. The fresh air made every breath a pleasure. And the stars, brighter than any I had ever seen, filled me with awe. I began to wonder what it would be like to stay immersed in nature.
Is my modern lifestyle missing a critical ingredient?
Today, we enjoy the comfort of indoor living. When it gets too hot, we turn on the air conditioning; when it rains, we have a roof to shelter us. Without the sanctuary of our homes and other buildings, we would often be uncomfortable and unable to fulfill our daily responsibilities. But have we drifted too far away from nature? How might we benefit from a daily effort to experience the great outdoors?
A large amount of research suggests that there is a strong relationship between feeling connected to nature and a variety of desirable outcomes including satisfaction with life, close relationships with others, self-acceptance and feeling positive emotions. If you spend most of your time indoors, there are many ways to make nature a bigger part of your life. Here are some ways you can experience the benefits of Mother Earth:
1. Take a walk. One experiment found that a mere 15 minute walk led to feelings of enthusiasm, aliveness and positive emotions, compared to taking a walk indoors. Whether you prefer brisk morning air, the full intensity of the sun, or a cool evening breeze, spending just a few minutes outside can have a great impact on your day.
2. Look at pictures. The beneficial effect of nature is so powerful that just looking at pictures of beautiful scenery can make a difference! One study found that looking at four nature pictures for two minutes each increased feelings of vitality and vigor, while looking at pictures of urban buildings decreased these feelings. If the weather is less than inviting, this is a great alternative to get a happiness boost from nature.
3. Get some plants. In what rooms do you spend the most time? Fill them with plants! In addition to producing oxygen, plants also seem to make us feel good. In fact, one study found that being surrounded by plants was associated with being more generous toward other people! Among many other plants, the English Ivy, Spider plant, and Peace Lily add the extra benefit of air filtration.
Do you feel close and connected to the great outdoors? How often do you savor and enjoy this connection?
Make time in your day for just one short walk. If this is not possible, remember that you can enjoy the benefits of nature in your home or workplace. Regardless of how nice the weather is, take solace in the comfort and beauty of nature. You may find that the splendor of our planet awakens a unique joy in your life.
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