Why is spending time in nature good for you?

Previous research has indicated that participating in such activities can offer advantages like improved physical and mental health, social cohesion, and a sense of place.

Numerous studies have shown that nature and the surrounding environment can have a positive impact on emotional and physical well-being. According to new research released by the University of Tokyo, the benefits of spending time in nature go far further than previously thought.

Researchers conducted a systematic evaluation of 301 scholarly articles from 62 countries on ‘cultural ecosystem services’ (CESs), commonly known as nature’s non-material or “intangible contributions” to wellbeing.

They discovered 227 distinct “pathways” that “link a single CES to a single constituent of human well-being, [which is] many more than we initially thought,” according to study co-author Alexandros Gasparatos, PhD, associate professor of sustainability science at the Institute for Future Initiatives (IFI) at the University of Tokyo.

Connecting with nature, according to Gasparatos, provides chances for enjoyment and leisure, spiritual fulfilment, personal development, social relations, and aesthetic experiences.

Previous research has indicated that participating in such activities can offer advantages like improved physical and mental health, social cohesion, and a sense of place.

In addition to the 227 pathways discovered by University of Tokyo researchers, Gasparatos claims they discovered 16 “individual mechanisms.” These mechanisms, according to Gasparatos, are the “overarching types of connection through which more specific pathways are created.”

Previous studies, according to Gasparatos, had found some of the pathways, but the new research has identified ten more.

These are some examples of the new-found pathways:

  • Cohesive: The formation of meaningful human relationships through interactions with nature.
  • Formative: When aspects such as mood, attitude, behaviours, and values change quickly or over a short period of time as a result of interaction with nature.
  • Satisfactive: The feeling that your expectations and needs have been met as a result of encounters with nature.
  • Transcendent: Obtaining benefits from nature that are tied to religious or spiritual values.

These mechanisms can be stimulated in a variety of ways when it comes to connecting with nature and the environment. A peaceful stroll in the woods, assisting with a beach clean-up, exploring a new city, or foraging for berries are all activities that promote a sense of connectedness.

The researchers also observed that a crossover of pathways may occur, increasing the effect of their findings. For example, caring for nature through a nature-based recreation activity like gardening would include both cognitive and evolutive principles.

Environmental psychologist Lee Chambers told Healthline that these “studies have shown we can have a physiological response to being in natural environments, reducing our heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension.”

“There can also be a level of psychological restoration, with the lowering of cortisol, improved concentration, and feeling a deeper sense of connection,” Chambers added.

Participants in past research studies reported the following benefits as a result of these effects:

  • Reduce stress levels
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Increased self-esteem and confidence

Connecting with nature in Qatar

  • Go on a kayaking trip in the Purple Island
  • For de-clutter lovers, take part in a local beach clean-up while enjoying nature, two birds with one stone
  • Visit Heenat Salma farm, who take a new approach in connecting nature with people
  • Take a stroll in Oxygen Park in Education City

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