5 benefits of getting back to nature

If you live in a city, you’ll be acquainted with the nonstop pace of urban life. Dealing with work commitments and packed social calendars, ‘busy’ has become a modern mantra for most. Add in our obsession with digital devices and it’s not surprising that our stress levels are spiking. Sure, the stream of Facebook updates and real-time Instagram alerts makes us feel connected. But it also makes it harder than ever to unplug. 

Luckily, analogue activities such as spending time in nature can work wonders for our mental health, creativity and wellbeing. Here are five reasons to put down your iPhone, lace up your walking shoes and let the natural world work its magic. 

1. It bolsters your mental energy  

Feeling withdrawn and exhausted? You could be suffering from mental fatigue. Strolling by the coast or spending an afternoon ambling through bushland can restore your mental energy and improve your concentration levels. According to a 2015 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, you can sharpen your mind by taking just 40 seconds to observe a view of nature. Although that’s good news for the time-poor among us, imagine what it could do in an hour.   

2. A ticket to greater creativity  
So you’ve taken up ceramics to spark your creativity, but have you ever considered spending time outside? Research from the University of London found that people who spent four days hiking could solve creative problems 50 per cent more effectively than their screen-bound counterparts. 

3. It’s an instant antidote to stress
No matter how much time we spend refreshing our browsers, there’s no denying that we’re sensory beings. That’s why scents – like the tang of salt air or the aroma of eucalyptus – can affect our emotions and lower our stress levels. In Japan, the practice of Shinrin-yoku or “forest-bathing” – where people wander through a forest to absorb its sounds and smells – is considered a form of moving meditation. It’s been part of the healthcare system in Japan since the early ‘80s. There’s no reason you can’t embrace it, too. As long as you’re not hay fever prone, head over to Botanic Gardens which is all a-bloom at the moment and bask in the amazing smells. 

4. It gives you an excuse to explore your surroundings 
From sprawling rainforests that house native flora to marine sanctuaries that are home to underwater wildlife, Australia is home to over 500 national parks. It also has one of the biggest networks of protected parkland in the world. The good news? If you’ve fantasised about trekking the Inca Trail or learning to snorkel in the Mediterranean, taking the time to learn about the environmental landmarks on your doorstep could save you the price of a plane ticket. 

5. It boosts your wellbeing 
Even if you’re hooked on yoga, mindfulness and meditation apps, there’s nothing quite like the natural environment for enhancing your happiness and satisfaction with life. The 2016 campaign Thirty Days Wild, which invited people to engage with nature every day for a month, found that experiencing the natural world sparked increases in happiness, health and wellbeing. It’s an incentive for introducing the outdoors into your routine — even if it just means prioritising your lunchtime walk around a local park.  
The hustle of city living can make us forget the natural environment lets us reclaim our time, unwind and switch off. This spring, try getting back to nature. Your mind will thank you for it.