One more on the myriad benefits of the simple joy of getting out in nature: A series of studies published in the latest issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that just being out in nature makes people feel more alive, and creates a sense of increased vitality beyond just the ordinary effect of increased physical activity and social interaction.
To separate out the effect of being in nature from other factors which may have been boosting that sense of vitality, the researchers did five different experiments where participants were led through walks through indoor hallways and tree-lined paths, were shown photographs of buildings and natural landscapes, were asked to document their lives in a variety of social, indoor, and outdoor contexts.
Across all methodologies, individuals consistently felt more energetic when they spent time in natural settings or imagined themselves in such situations. The findings were particularly robust, notes [study lead author Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester]; being outside in nature for just 20 minutes in a day was enough to significantly boost vitality levels. Interestingly, in the last study, the presence of nature had an independent energizing effect above that of being outdoors. In other words, conclude the authors, being outdoors was vitalizing in large part because of the presence of nature.
Ryan went on to say, “Nature is fuel for the soul. 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.”