Can being in the great outdoors boost your happiness?

Long before the perpetual bombardment of emails, social media, stressful jobs and consumer pressures, we lived in the great outdoors. Residing amidst trees, water, the sky and the weather… innately embraced by nature. 

It can be claimed that life was much easier back then. Sure, we lived shorter lives and infant mortality was pretty scary, but psychologically there was simplicity. Rules were virtually non-existent. We didn’t need to work and there were no choices or decisions regarding lifestyle because everyone had exactly the same, which was not much.

Contemporary life can be crammed full of worries; choices, injustices, confusions, congestion and anxieties, and many of us struggle to breath under that sort of heaviness. Some do search for the antidote or the alternative and have discovered the rejuvenating qualities of getting amongst our historical alfresco habitat.  

Don’t take my word for it. Recent research, at the University of Kansas, has suggested if you walk (we all know that regular exercise is good for you) or even sit (without devices) amongst nature you receive an added bonus of a deep-rooted spiritual type of uplifting effect to your wellbeing. 

“The “soft fascination” of the natural world appears to refresh the human mind, offering refuge from the cacophony of modern life… Nature is a place where our mind can rest, relax and reduce those threat responses, therefore, we have resources left over — to be creative, to be imaginative, to problem solve — that allows us to be better, happier people who engage in a more productive way with others.”

It’s not surprising that when we are in nature our bodies, our cognitive minds, and even our deeper felt senses, go to a place where they feel they truly belong. Relaxation, calmness and an uncluttered mind lead to a sort of freedom that we may find tough to experience in an office, house, an industrial unit or in a car.

It kind of makes sense if you think about it. Humankind walked (getting our exercise fix and boosting our serotonin and endorphin levels) through grassland and trees gathering food for millions of years. Just 12,000 years ago the agricultural revolution gave us physically hard, dawn to dusk jobs, but at least we were under the sky. The industrial revolution took us out of the countryside and put us into factories. Most of us have stopped working in the fresh air.

So does being in nature allow more free ‘head space’ for you to be closer to the true you, more peaceful — more in the moment — less worried or happier? Many medical professionals and psychologists indicate that human beings have an inborn desire to be part of nature calling this phenomenon ‘Biophilia’.

For some of us, sometimes, modern life can seem like a bit of a struggle. Being amongst the flora and fauna renews the mind and soul.

The evidence is too compelling to ignore, take time to get out there and go for a walk or a run or just sit in the great outdoors.

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