Recently, I was in Montana for my younger sister’s wedding. I have traveled to many places in my lifetime, but this new location would prove to be one of the most cathartic. As my family and I flew over the mountains, I couldn’t help but stare in awe of the beauty that I was about to enter. I couldn’t wait—another state finally off the bucket list!
My family picked up our rental car after we landed, and we were finally off to Big Sky, the town where we were staying. As we drove through the state, it was initially nothing but flat plains and big ranches, with a few homes and businesses spread throughout. A sense of simplicity and solitude was in the air. It was a nice break from my hectic reality back home.
As we got closer, the plains turned into a sea of mountains and pine trees, the likes of which my family has never seen. The terrain was intimidating yet inspiring. Good thing I wasn’t driving, because there would have been a good chance that I’d drive right off the road from all the beautiful distractions that surrounded me!
A Friendly Reminder
I’m sharing this experience with you because it truly was therapeutic in nature (no pun intended). I think we all need to take the time to get outside now and then and soak in what’s around us. With the year winding down, there will not be as many opportunities to do so, unless you like to go on walks in the cold!
You also don’t need to go all the way to Montana (although, you definitely should if you can) to get some nature in your life. Whether you live in a city or suburb, odds are likely you’ll find a few half-decent nature trails or parks around you. A quick Google search of your surroundings should give you some idea of what is nearby. If you’re still not convinced to take the time to get outside, then I encourage you to consider the following ways a peaceful nature walk could do you some good.
5 Well-Being Benefits of Being Out in the Great Outdoors
1. Relieve Stress
Nature introduces scenes and pleasant imagery that captures our attention gently instead of suddenly snatching it up. This calms your nerves instead of distressing them.
2. Improve Your Short Term Memory
University of Michigan psychology researchers Marc Berman, John Jonides, and Stephen Kaplan observed that memory performance and attention spans may benefit from getting outdoors. A study they conducted indicated there was a 20 percent increase in memory performance in individuals who were exposed to nature.
3. Improve Your Mood
Lisa Nisbet, Ph.D., a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, states that walking in nature can boost your mood. She also says that the sense of connection people have with the natural world seems to link directly to happiness, even when individuals are not physically immersed in nature.
4. Nature Heals (Literally)!
Exposure to nature has been shown to contribute to physical well-being. Such ways include the lowering of blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and stress hormones. According to scientists, including public health researchers Stamatakis and Mitchell, it may even reduce mortality!
5. Sunlight is Beneficial
It’s important to get a good dose of sunlight now and then! Doing so releases serotonin, a.k.a. the happy hormone. Sunshine can also boost bone health with the help of Vitamin D. It might even help resolve several skin conditions.
My Montana trip was a great success with many memories I’ll hold onto forever. We hiked Yellowstone, fished the Gallatin River, saw wildlife, walked countless trails, and took in all the nature around us. To top it off, we did it all as a family. It was great how all of us were able to put our busy lives on hold for a week of togetherness and adventure, all in the presence of nature. I hope you’ll follow my lead and take time to tune out the stresses of life by getting in tune with nature!
Your turn! What cool areas have you visited where you were surrounded by nature?
3 Pearson DG, Craig T. The great outdoors? Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments. Frontiers in Psychology. 2014;5:1178. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01178.