Nature’s Impact on Physical & Emotional Health

by Cindy Rollins, Clinical Psychologist and Board Member, The Launch Pad

As a youth, some of my fondest memories include riding horses through the forest, biking with the neighbor kids or camping in national parks with family.

I continued to enjoy the outdoors throughout adulthood, but last year especially my outdoor experiences assisted me in managing the stress of 2020. I noticed how much I looked forward to the weekly hikes with a group of female friends as we trained for rim to rim of the Grand Canyon for The Launch Pad’s Trek for Teens fundraising event.

This time outdoors helped me feel socially connected and a sense of community and normalcy, while also providing a host of other mental and physical benefits.

The positive benefits of time spent outside is not surprising as evidence- based studies suggest “getting out into the wilderness” regularly helps people become more attuned to their surroundings and live healthier and longer lives (Cervinka, R., Röderer, K., & Hefler, E., 2012).

Exposure to nature is linked to benefits including improved attention, lower stress, elevated mood, reduced risk of mental health conditions and increases in empathy and cooperation (Lee, K.E., et al., 2015). Research shows that just 20 minutes in a park is enough to improve well-being. Research by Berman, M.G., et al., (2019) suggest that being outdoors can improve your health and well-being by:

Spending time walking among or simply looking at trees lowers blood pressure and reduces stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

Anxiety, depression and anger are decreased after spending time outdoors.

The natural world allows our brains to take a break from stress and allows us to be more present, more in the “here and now.”

Individuals who spend regular time outdoors
report fewer sleep difficulties, complained less about aches and pains, and enjoyed improved mobility and performance of daily activities.

Spending time outdoors with friends or loved ones, such as hiking together, is shown to increase emotional bonds, empathy and strengthen connection.

Understanding the scientific benefits of spending daily time outside helps me create a routine of outdoor activities. It helps one connect to a cause, increase a sense of purpose and boost physical and emotional well-being.