The Role of Nature in Morning Smiles - How the Outdoors Can Brighten Your AM

Smile AM

Emerging research illustrates that spending time outdoors has an immense effect on human health, from improved memory and creativity to reduced levels of stress.

Just add nature into your day - even if that means leaving the office for a lunchtime walk in a park! - for something simple as adding some green into your life.

1. Boost Your Mood

Outdoors offers stunning natural beauty to explore and delight the senses. Being outside can do wonders for both your mental wellbeing and creativity; studies have proven this. Time spent in nature helps the brain focus and memory improve, which in turn fosters creativity. Studies also indicate that time in nature helps reduce stress levels which is an impediment to being creative.

Being outdoors can increase production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, helping you feel happier and calmer. Many individuals who struggle with mental health issues like depression and anxiety have reported that spending time in nature helps boost their moods and provides them with peace and well-being. Spending time outdoors may even reduce symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), an example of which often arises during winter months.

Creativity often stems from being inspired, and nature provides many avenues of stimulation and insight into finding that inspiration. Many artists, writers, and other creatives find their muse in forests, lakes or simply the vast sky as sources of muse-inducing stimulation.

Modern society faces one of the biggest problems when it comes to nature connection: we have lost it. According to Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle, many are suffering from what he refers to as a "nature deficit disorder," so something must change soon if we wish to reconnect with the natural world and reap its benefits; starting now.

2. Reduce Your Stress

At any point in time, nature can provide relief from stress. Walking on an outdoor trail or just gazing out your apartment window at trees and bushes can help relieve anxiety. Studies have demonstrated the many ways spending time outdoors can enhance your mood, reduce depression risk, and speed recovery from psychological trauma, as well as increase focus and concentration. One study asked participants to complete a mentally challenging task and found that those taking their breaks in natural settings, like parks, performed better on tests than those who took breaks near busy streets. Bird song, flower scents, and natural beauty all provide soothing distractions from stressful city streets that help calm our senses and reduce our levels of anxiety and stress.

Studies have proven the health benefits of spending just two recreational hours outdoors each week are more likely to report good health and an improved sense of well-being than those who don't spend any time outside. This research adds to a body of evidence showing just how beneficial nature-based experiences can be.

Find a place where you feel at ease, where you can fully immerse yourself in sights, sounds, and aromas of nature - such as by sitting near windows overlooking gardens or listening to recordings of nature recordings - where you can really take in its sights, sounds, and scents. Don't have to be immersed in the forest to experience nature; locations with plenty of green space and water should do. Biophilia (an appreciation of nature) has been scientifically proven to reduce stress.

3. Boost Your Immune System

Studies demonstrate that people living near nature experience less stress, eat healthier diets and engage in regular physical exercise more regularly. We don't completely comprehend why this happens, but time spent outdoors likely reduces our levels of stress while making us feel at peace - this allows our immune systems to perform at their optimum.

Studies also demonstrate the benefits of spending time outdoors for improving immunity against colds or other infections, since nature contains many microorganisms that provide practice drills with your immune system, helping it become familiar with fighting viruses or cancer cells. Trees give off volatile essential oils called phytoncides which contain antimicrobial properties which could further boost your resilience against illness.

Nature appears to have many beneficial effects on our bodies, yet why this occurs is still unclear. Researchers have come up with plausible theories. Perhaps parks and green spaces provide less visual stimulation than bustling cities do, meaning our brains don't become as overwhelmed. Furthermore, its stillness allows our unconscious mind to rest comfortably resulting in healthier bodies and immune systems.

Not only is the outdoors an excellent place for physical exercise, it can also be an incredible source of creativity and concentration boosts. Perhaps fresh air nudges your focus in new directions; or natural scenery may simply be more visually captivating than most office or residential buildings. Furthermore, regular exposure to sunlight helps synchronize your sleep/wake cycle so you'll find it easier to fall asleep at night - another good reason why spending some time outside every day - even if it is only a 15-30-minute long hike or bike ride - is so vitally important! So make sure that even just 15-30 minutes outside each day even if it means just spending 15-30 minutes out in nature every day at least!

4. Increase Your Memory

Even short nature breaks can help improve your ability to complete tasks that require steady focus. A recent study demonstrated this by showing participants who had spent at least two recreational hours outdoors during the past week had greater success on a series of mental challenges than those who hadn't; these results held whether these hours were all spent at once or scattered over multiple sessions throughout the week.

Because nature helps us enter a state of "soft fascination," as defined by researchers, this calms the prefrontal cortex and frees up other parts of the brain that promote creative thinking and problem-solving. Our brains become better equipped to recall details and make creative connections when in this state - an effect known as episodic memory.

At any point in time, these benefits are easy to experience by just strolling through a park or taking a stroll in your neighborhood. For an immersive experience, try hiking trails, visiting national forests or camping in the woods.

Studies show that even viewing videos of natural scenery can increase attention and positive emotions. One such study compared outcomes of people who walked in tree-lined parks vs those who watched videos of urban settings; results demonstrated that walking led to improved working memory capacity as well as greater positive emotions than watching urban videos (Frantz et al., Environment and Behavior 2023).

If you find yourself struggling to meet deadlines or feeling overwhelmed, take some time in nature - don't be afraid of leaving your laptop at home; this time can help you work faster and more efficiently in the end.

5. Boost Your Creativity

Outdoor environments provide us with creative inspiration to realize our fullest potential, whether that means gazing upon water surfaces glinting with sunlight or gazing upon majestic mountain ranges.

Spending time outdoors not only improves your mood, but it can also help you accomplish more. Studies have demonstrated that people exposed to nature excel at performing complex problem-solving tasks more quickly.

Researchers theorize that improvements in performance could be attributable to the brain's natural ability to restore its attentional systems, providing relief for any mental blocks or problems you are facing.

One study took 56 Outward Bound participants and conducted the Remote Associates Test before and after four days on a hiking trip. This cognitive test measures creative problem-solving abilities; researchers found that those who spent time outdoors experienced a 50% increase in creativity scores.

Researchers suggest that outdoor environments affect performance differently due to an activation of your default network - linked with creative thinking - when outdoors. You can activate it through activities which engage all five senses while outdoors, like listening to birds sing or waves crash against rocks, taking walks alone or with others and listening for sounds such as birdsong and waves crashing; you could even go hiking!

Workaholics may struggle to find motivation to leave their desks and explore. Leanza suggests it doesn't have to be a huge trip or hike to boost your spirits; even just walking around your neighborhood could do the trick. You could also listen to recordings of natural sounds online and inhale scents from nearby forests, beaches or waterfalls - even just breathing them in can do the trick!


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