Ten Ways Nature Can Help You Have a Healthy 2023
1. Improve Your Mood
There is an ever-growing body of research supporting the notion that spending time in nature improves mental health. In one study (Bratman, 2015), participants who took 90-minute walks in natural settings reported less rumination—or negative, spinning thoughts—than their counterparts who walked in an urban setting. These same participants were studied by advanced imaging techniques after their nature walks and were found to have less brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is the brain region involved in depression, behavioral withdrawal, and negative self-reflective processes. Consider making 2023 the year you add nature to your mental health resolutions!
photo by D. Royal
2. Reach Your Fitness Goals
Not only did a review of eleven studies by Thompson Coons, et al. find that outdoor exercise led to greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy, a greater sense of satisfaction and increased likelihood of repeating the activity as compared to indoor exercise, but outdoor exercise was also found in a 2013 study by Richard Mitchell to improve mental health over exercise in other types of environments. So, forego the gym, dress for the weather, and plan your next exercise activity outdoors.
photo by S. Ratay
3. Enhance Your Memory, Attention Span and Productivity
From a 2008 study by Marc Berman, et al., we learned that memory and attention span was improved by twenty percent after just one hour spent interacting with nature. Later, a study by Kate Lee and colleagues found that students who took 40-second microbreaks to gaze at a screensaver of nature images (versus controls who gazed at a photo of a bare roof) had improved attention spans and fewer errors in completing a task after the break. This is among the many studies suggesting that simply gazing at nature images is good for our health when it is not practical or possible to step outdoors.
photo by S. Thrun-Huddart
4. Boost Your Immune Function
The coronavirus pandemic has brought awareness to the importance of maintaining a healthy immune system to fight infection. A review article by Ming Kuo in 2015 made the argument that an immune boost is the basis for the many health benefits of time spent in nature. Whether it is from inhaling the immune-boosting phytoncides in the essential oils of trees, or ingesting microparticles of healthy bacteria from soil, numerous studies support this theory.
5. Reduce Stress
When adult study participants spent just 20-30 minutes engaged in their preferred outdoor activity, significant reductions in the stress hormones cortisol and alpha-amylase were found in their saliva (Hunter et al., 2019). Whether sitting, walking, birdwatching, or gardening, the choice is yours and benefits start at just twenty minutes a day.
AllTrails' Map of Total Fitness Trails for 2023
6. Lower Your Blood Pressure
Office workers participating in a one-day forest therapy program were found to have significantly lower blood pressure for five full days following their experience, in a study by Song, et al. in 2017. Find a certified forest therapy guide near you to explore the practice of Shinrin-yoku, or Japanese Forest Bathing.
photo by I. Bornarth
7. Reduce Cancer Risk
A series of studies by Dr. Qing Li and his colleagues in Japan found that a three day, two night forest therapy excursion increased levels of anti-cancer cells, such as Natural Killer (NK) cells, perforin, and granulysin. These benefits were found to persist for as long as thirty days later. So, if possible, mark your 2023 calendar for a few long weekends in the great outdoors.
8. Find Your Community
A 2014 study by Marselle, et al. found that people walking in nature with a group experienced improved positive emotions and mental health beyond that which occurred in participants walking alone in nature. As with similar investigations, a 2017 study by Wakefield and colleagues found that group identification “is linked to high levels of satisfaction with life.” Consider searching the internet for gender, ethnic, religious, or other identity-based nature groups in your area. If you don’t find what you are looking for, make 2023 the year you start your own group.
photo by R. Ferretti-Hoyle
9. Shift Your Genetics
The emerging field of epigenetics, the concept that our lifestyle can affect our genes (changes which can be passed down to our offspring), has been found to apply to residential “greenness.” A 2021 study by Xu and colleagues found an association between participants living in areas with higher “surrounding greenness” and positive changes in genes that are involved with mental health disorders, tumors, and metabolic diseases. Start healthy habits in 2023, for your own longevity and for future generations.
10. Heal Yourself, Heal The Planet
People who spend time in nature have been found to value conservation of wildlife, land, air, and water (Zaradic, 2009 and others). Support organizations like Sempervirens Fund to protect places where you can enjoy nature and reap the myriad of health benefits. Also join us for our free webinar series, Under the Redwoods.
photo from an AllTrails user
Watch Dr. Hackenmiller Under the Redwoods
In 2022 Dr. Hackenmiller joined us Under the Redwoods to host a free forest bathing webinar on health benefits of opting outdoors! Sign up for our email list to stay up to date on this and other free webinars as our Under the Redwoods series as they are announced.
More to Explore
- Check out our curated hikes through diverse habitats with great views on AllTrails
- Visit our favorite places for Fall and Winter Hikes right now
- Learn more about how redwoods benefit our health