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Can nature impact our happiness?

The late Wayne Dyer famously encouraged getting back to nature, to be in touch with the natural world, to be in awe of air, water, clouds, trees, birds, and grass.

He believed that taking a break from city walls and concrete was a helpful thing. He believed that listening to the sounds of nature, walking barefoot on grass, was a beautiful way to sustain life and joy.

Therapists and mental health experts agree.

Some organizations provide nature therapy as part of their treatment programs; independent therapists suggest making outdoor activity part of one’s recovery plan at home and in between sessions. Nature therapy, conducted with a professional or taken on alone, involves getting outside, walking, jogging, hiking, cycling or even dancing. It can include gardening. It can mean just laying on the grass and staring up at the sky. It could be grabbing a book and reading it on a park bench.

It’s been proven that environments can reduce our stress – if we’re in peaceful, pleasant environments, our sadness, anxiety or helplessness can evaporate. Conversely, if we’re in high-stress environments, our anxiety and depression can be elevated.

And it seems to be that human beings choose natural settings when they need relief from stress. Some people like parks heavy with trees, while others retreat to beaches. Other like heading to the mountains or hills.

When you’re in nature (or if you can’t get to a beach right at this very second, you may just look a picture of one), you feel better. Your blood pressure decreases. Your heart rate improves. Your muscles relax. You stop producing stress hormones. Nature heals.

With any time spent outside, you’re likely to find that your mood has improved, and you feel more alive. You remember that your life and your days have meaning.

Realistically, however, not many of us can just run outside or spend the day outdoors. The interesting thing is that bringing the outdoors in can have an equally happy effect – you can open your windows wide in the morning for a few minutes to breathe in fresh air, or you can buy a plant or two and set them on your desk. You’ll soon find that these two simple activities will help you concentrate, focus and remember more during the day.

Especially now, when we’re in front of digital screens so often, reconnecting with nature is so important. We’re being nature-deprived, so it’s no surprise that so many more of us are struggling with depression. We must do our best to limit our screen exposure so that we don’t succumb to things like irregular or troubled sleep, obesity, or poor performance at school or at work.

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