5 Ways Being Disconnected From Nature Is Making You Sick and Sad

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— Ecopsychology: How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health, Yale Environment 360

Silicon Valley startup bros act like nature is something you can recreate by making a few artificial trees and placing them in the atrium of your building’s lobby, but a growing body of evidence is making it increasingly clear that humans need regular, prolonged exposure to actual nature to thrive.

You may not realize it because you’ve always lived this way, but having little-to-no contact with nature is dragging your health down in a variety of ways.

#1: You’re More Depressed and Anxious

You know that wonderful feeling you get when you’re sitting outside on a gorgeous day? You don’t get to enjoy that feeling if you don’t go outside. You don’t need a medical degree to understand how that might be detrimental to your mental health.

If you’re the kind of person who likes facts and figures, though, here are some. One study found sunlight, even only through a window, had a significant effect on people’s feeling of relaxation. Another study found a small but consistent effect of sunlight on tiredness. Yet another found sunlight exposure at work was related to less depression and anxiety.

People talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder as if being colder and sadder during dark, cold, sad months were a pathology instead of a completely normal thing that happens to humans. Not everyone gets the winter blues enough to qualify for a diagnosis of SAD, but everyone who spends winter inside suffers the winter blues to one degree or another.

If you’re not happy and self-satisfied most days, you can easily make yourself a little happier by finding time to get outside.

#2: You’re Not Sleeping Well

One of the most important signals the brain uses to tell time is early-morning sunlight. Without exposure to sunlight in the morning and early afternoon, your brain can’t tell what time it is, which means it can’t release melatonin and other important sleep hormones on time, which means you will struggle to fall asleep later.

If you take time to get outside in the middle of the day, your brain will reward you. You will be more awake while you are awake and more ready to fall asleep when it’s time to fall asleep.

If you don’t feel rested in the morning and aren’t sure what to change, try regularly spending some time outside.

#3: You Can’t Move Your Body Easily

Possibly one of my least favorite parts of the years between the late twenties and early thirties is how everyone starts moaning about “getting older” as if their back is about to give out from osteopenia. You’re 30, not 80. Pull it together.

If you’re not anywhere near being elderly, your exhaustion probably has less to do with age and more to do with your nonexistent exercise routine and poor diet. And, potentially, you’re tired because you never get outside.

Everyone knows that because of our modern lifestyle of sitting all day, it’s important to get up every so often and walk around. Even taking a half-mile walk around the block can be a powerful way to counteract the dangers of sitting all day.

If you find yourself tired and demotivated more often than you would like, try adding in a little walk outside.

#4: You’re Missing Essential Vitamins

One of the vitamins we need for good health, Vitamin D, is produced by our bodies when we are exposed to sunlight. People with Vitamin D deficiencies have mood swings, depression, lack of energy, skin conditions, and other chronic diseases.

Because we don’t get enough sunlight, 42% of Americans are Vitamin D deficient. That means there’s a very real chance your chronic health annoyances are caused by a lack of sunlight exposure.

#5: You’re Less Productive

Who doesn’t like to get things done, right? If you can get more done in less time, you have more time left over to relax and enjoy living your life.

Well, according to NC State University, “A study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology found that employees working in natural light recorded higher levels of energy than those working under artificial light. Another study showed 40 percent higher sales at checkout counters located beneath skylights. This data confirms what many studies have shown: natural light leads to enhanced productivity.”

You Only Need to Spend This Long In Nature to Heal

Shockingly, it doesn’t take much exposure to nature to get all the time you need for your health.

In a huge study of 20,000 people, a team led by Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter found you only need to spend two hours a week in nature to be healthy.

In a study of 20,000 people, a team led by Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter, found that people who spent two hours a week in green spaces — local parks or other natural environments, either all at once or spaced over several visits — were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don’t. Two hours was a hard boundary: The study, published last June, showed there were no benefits for people who didn’t meet that threshold.

The effects were robust, cutting across different occupations, ethnic groups, people from rich and poor areas, and people with chronic illnesses and disabilities.

“It’s well-known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and well-being, but until now we’ve not been able to say how much is enough,” White said. “Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people, especially given that it can be spread over an entire week to get the benefit.”

— Ecopsychology: How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health, Yale Environment 360

You might be one of those people who privately criticize themselves for not being a marathoner or mountain climber.

If you are, you can let your self-guilt go. You don’t need to be an outdoors superhero to enjoy good health and wellness. Two hours a week will set you on the right track.

In Conclusion

If you’re not making time to get outside at least a few hours every week, you are unknowingly suffering a decrease in your quality of life.

  1. You’re more depressed and anxious.
  2. You’re not getting restful sleep.
  3. You are more weak and fatigued.
  4. You are missing essential vitamins.
  5. You are losing productivity.

You don’t need to look high and low for microdosing information or arcane vitamin and supplement pills to enjoy an improvement in your quality of life. If you’re an indoor cat, you can get the same benefit by spending some time outside.