Chances are if you’re reading this on the Fortune Bay site, nature has a special place in your life. We spend our free time here, escape, a place to play, weather and wonders to behold with awe. But, do we NEED nature in our lives? As we dash forward into a faster paced, more urban, and more technologically centered future, we may also be speeding away from a fundamental part of being human.
Biologist Edward O. Wilson coined the Biophilia Hypothesis in 1984. His hypothesis essentially suggests that humans have an inseparable relationship with nature due to our evolutionary history. When we get separated from nature, we lose a part of ourselves.
No doubt we’ve experienced this ourselves. Call of the wild type stuff. You’ve spent all week at work, running errands, making calls, and staring at screens. You’re stressed, tired, and ready for the weekend of fishing, camping, or hiking. What better way to decompress than getting out there? Turns out, immersing yourself in nature is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Several studies have shown that time spent outdoors has had a direct and positive effect on things like cortisol levels, blood pressure, creativity, and resistance to several common ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma.
But we’re busy. Work, families, and the other giant list of things that take up our time seriously get in the way of our outdoor leisure. So how long do we need to spend in nature to receive the positive effects it provides?
A University of Michigan study concluded that 20 minutes three times per week was enough to reap some benefits of nature. Things like walking in a city park, sitting by the river, or cruising the countryside, just being in these spaces helps fulfill our nature needs.
But it turns out, the more wild, and the deeper the immersion, the better. A brief study done by University of Utah neuroscientist David Strayer showed that a group of kids scored 50% higher on a creativity test after spending three days in the wilderness on an Outward Bound backpacking trip. UC Berkeley has found that military vets suffering from PTSD reported their symptoms reduced by 29% and stress levels down 21% after spending four days on a rafting trip. Not only did their symptoms decrease during the trip, but they had lasting effects for weeks after.
I believe these studies just barely scratch the surface. Just like a good diet and exercise, nature is a fundamental building block of a healthy and satisfying life. As we race forward into the future, don’t forget to step back every now and then. Get outside and into nature. See just how good it feels to reconnect with our evolutionary heritage.