No wonder you always liked playing outside when you were a kid. Studies show that connecting with nature makes you feel alive, energized, and happy.
A series of studies on nature’s vitalizing effect was conducted back in 2009 by researchers from the University of Rochester, in collaboration with McGill University in Canada, Virginia Commonwealth University, Concordia University in Canada, and the University of Hamburg in Germany.
For purposes of the study, vitality was defined as “having physical and mental energy.”
The authors wrote, “When vital, people experience a sense of enthusiasm, aliveness, and energy available to the self. Vitality is thus associated with feelings of vigor, activated positive affect, and calm energy, all constructs entailing positively toned, energized states.”
Nature is fuel for the soul
The studies found, among other things, that the energizing effects of communing with nature had long-term results that affected other areas of the participants’ lives.
Richard Ryan, lead author and professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, explained, “Research has shown that people with a greater sense of vitality don’t just have more energy for things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses. One of the pathways to health may be to spend more time in natural settings.”
“Nature is fuel for the soul,” said Ryan. “Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.”
Being with nature was more beneficial than merely being outdoors
Ryan and his team carefully designed their studies so they could determine if the benefits in vitality were linked with nature or just feelings associated with those situations.
Their experiments involved actual time spent outdoors; simply viewing photographic scenes of landscapes or buildings; mental imagery of situations indoors and out; as well as tracking diary entries for mood and energy levels.
In each area of research, the participants consistently had increased energy when they spent time in nature or imagined spending time in natural settings.
As little as 20 minutes spent outside gave a significant increase in levels of vitality.
The last study, in particular, showed that being in nature was more energizing than simply being outdoors.
Human beings flourish through a connection with nature
Ryan and his team concluded, “We have a natural connection with living things. Nature is something within which we flourish, so having it be more a part of our lives is critical, especially when we live and work in built environments.”
Ryan and his colleagues are not the first to realize there is a strong connection between time spent outdoors and an increase in personal well-being.
Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
When you are low on energy or feeling sad, step outside for a quick walk. Spending time amongst the trees, flowers, and green grass will revitalize you in ways that nothing else can. It’s time to get back to nature.