Celebrate July fourth by taking time to be in nature. Yes, fireworks are spectacular but nature provides one of the most reliable boosts to your mental and physical health. Being in nature has the potential to reduce anxiety and depression while increasing positivity and self-esteem. Those benefits mean more confidence.
In addition to the benefits to your mood, studies have shown that being in nature can improve your short-term memory, restore your mental energy, improve concentration, enhance creativity and relieve stress. You can accrue physical benefits, too, without breaking a sweat. Just being in a nature can reduce inflammation, improve vision and boost the immune system.
“Nature” doesn’t necessarily mean camping. (Sleeping on the ground has little appeal for me.) Go to a park or garden near your home. Walk through a neighborhood with lush landscaping. Studies have shown that the presence of water makes the positive effects of being in nature even stronger. Visit a lake or a stream or the seashore. If you’re city-bound, visit a park with a fountain. You can get “hands-on” involvement by volunteering at a community garden or starting your own.
Going on a hike – even a short walk – brightens my day. My pup gets three walks a day, and we both enjoy physical and psychological benefits. Sometimes we go a nearby nature preserve or the beach. Often, we simply stroll around the neighborhood. She investigates the scents while I notice changes in the greenery. It’s no secret that dog owners who walk their pets have improved health.
Animal interactions are another source of nature-based benefits. Brain studies show that tactile contact with animals releases endorphins, brain chemicals that improve your sense of well being. Some neuroscientists suggest that benefits of such interactions arise from temporarily shutting down human brains’ sometimes turbulent cognitive functions. Without knowing exactly why, I can attest that stroking an animal is peaceful. Brush your dog or pet your cat. My favorite memory of a tactile interaction is rubbing my horse’s hip as we stood in the sunshine of a spring day.
Head outside! You’ll be glad you did.