A breeze tousling hair, soft grass under bare feet, warmth of sunshine.
Juicy watermelon, charcoal-grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, fresh corn on the cob.
Bright green leaves, blue skies with puffy clouds, colorful arrays of flowers.
The smell of wet pavement after a thunderstorm, cherry blossoms, fresh cut grass.
Birds chirping, the breeze rustling through the leaves, insects buzzing.
Touch. Taste. Sight. Smell. Hearing.
The weather gets warmer, the days get longer, and the above spring-/summer-time sensations are what my senses look forward to all winter long. Not only do these familiar experiences bring a sense of nostalgia, but they also lighten my mood. After a long winter mostly spent indoors, there’s something about being outside in nature that does the heart, soul, and mind good.
Spending time in nature has shown to reduce feelings of stress and anger, improve mood, help you feel more relaxed, encourage you to be more active, and improve physical health (www.mind.org.uk). In fact, a meta-analysis study conducted by researchers at Cornell University found that adult college students who spent as little as 10-20 minutes per day sitting or walking outside in nature saw immediate benefits to their mental health.
I have often asked myself the “why” behind the science of how nature effects one’s mental health. My personal conclusion is that nature easily draws me into a more mindful state of being. The beauty of vivid bright green grass, the sounds of rustling leaves and birds singing to one another, and the smell of lilacs wafting through the air that mixes with the earthy scent of dirt as I pull weeds from my garden, all draw me into a peaceful present moment. In that mindful state my worries fade away, tension starts to leave my body, and I can feel myself relax all without conscious effort.
Also, in that present moment I often feel a sense of humbleness and awe as I feel so small, so insignificant compared to the vastness of creation around me. The small slice of earth I call “my backyard” is nothing compared to the nearly 197 million square miles of various terrains, plant life, and breath-taking beauty on planet earth. Furthermore, my heart is full of gratitude for the Creator who allows me to experience such beauty on a daily basis, in particular during the spring and summer months. And so maybe the next time you’re feeling a little low, consider stepping outside for a breath of fresh air, notice the blue sky overhead and the yellow flowers thriving between the cracks in the sidewalk and feel yourself relax as you gain a little boost in your mood from a refreshing dose of nature.
Citation: Meredith GR, Rakow DA, Eldermire ERB, Madsen CG, Shelley SP and Sachs NA (2020) Minimum Time Dose in Nature to Positively Impact the Mental Health of College-Aged Students, and How to Measure It: A Scoping Review. Front. Psychol. 10:2942. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02942