Time outdoors in nature supports human health and wellbeing in a variety of different ways ranging from the physiological, through to the emotional, psychological and spiritual. Time outdoors has been shown to boost our immune system, regulate our sympathetic nervous system (responsible for stress and rest), increase positive emotion and the production of hormones such as dopamine and oxytocin, lower bloody pressure and sugar levels…all sorts!
My particular interest is in human connectedness to nature and how a meaningful connection can support long-term feelings of wellbeing and fulfilment in life. It has now been shown in research that it is meaningful experiences and encounters with nature rather than ‘contact’ alone, that improves mental wellbeing in the long-term, and is a predictor of lower levels of depression. That is, it doesn’t matter so much how many times you go outdoors, but what you do and how you feel when you’re there. This is where adventure comes in! It’s a great way of building a connection with the natural world through rich experience, whilst also supporting other areas of our wellbeing such as confidence building, resilience and problem-solving.
Adventures opens us up to peak experiences and feelings of awe and wonder; all important factors in feeling that we are living a fulfilling and meaningful life. One of the most exciting aspects of nature connection research for me, is that people who love nature and feel a bond with it, are more likely to value it and care for it thus helping the wellbeing of the planet too.