A growing body of research confirms that time spent in nature can improve our self-esteem and mood and induce a sense of awe and wonder. In fact, studies show that time spent in nature is more than therapeutic—it’s necessary. Researchers from Arizona State University have found that time spent in nature creates a sense of connectedness and inspires a sense of awe.1
The value of the sense of awe is that it tends to direct attention away from the self and toward the environment. This produces a calming effect and helps make everyday stress and anxieties feel more manageable.
In another study, researchers from the University of Essex found that individuals who exercised outdoors—or spent as few as five minutes of activity in a natural setting—experienced improved self-esteem and mood.2 Any type of green environment improved self-esteem and mood, but the presence of water increased the effects.
Sometimes finding peace is as simple as getting outside. The sights, sounds, and smells of nature are soothing to the senses. Spending time near a babbling brook or rustling trees can promote a deep sense of relaxation, which allows the mind to wander and recharge.
Even if you’re not an outdoor enthusiast or if you live in a concrete jungle, there are still ways to connect with nature:
- Visit an urban park. Read, take a picnic, or simply sit on a bench and breathe.
- Walk along a river or creek. Even the most urban areas typically have short nature paths scattered throughout town.
- Sit outside. Eat dinner on the porch. Drink your morning coffee in the backyard. Spend time outside soaking up the natural light.
1 Shiota M, Keltner D, Mossman A. The nature of awe: Elicitors, appraisals, and effects on self-concept. Cognition and Emotion. 2007; 21(5) 944-963.
2 Barton J, Pretty J. What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Environmental Science and Technology. 2010; 44(10): 3947-55.