Focus on well-being: Benefits of nature


During the dark and cold winter months, nature’s blessings can seem reserved for the warmer months of the year. On a recent weekend we had family visiting and wanted to get out even though the temps were in the teens. We went to City Forest and rented cross country skis. One of our family members had never tried cross country skiing before so we were well entertained with his classic antics and falls. Bottom line, the time spent outdoors has energized us all.

How are well-being and nature related? Time spent in nature has been shown to contribute to well-being. Granted, you don’t need to strap on cross-country skis or have a comical member of the family to keep you entertained. Just taking a walk outside can have a positive effect.

As we begin the new year, the Midland Area Wellbeing Coalition is working to realize our community’s vision: “Together, Forward, Bold. An exceptional place where everyone thrives. Our ability to thrive individually and as a community is directly linked to well-being. Wellness is about striving and thriving, having tools to help us so that we can function effectively in the face of the challenges we will encounter throughout our lives. Let’s take a closer look at how nature can be part of building well-being and, therefore, a thriving community.

Centuries ago, the Greek physician Hippocrates said, “Nature itself is the best physician,” acknowledging the many positive values ​​of time in nature. Wellness and nature research has shown us that reduced stress, quality sleep, increased creativity, improved health and longevity, better mood and increased positive emotions as well as strengthened mental health all come from time spent in nature.

The amount of time you spend in nature and even the type of engagement with nature can vary greatly while providing the benefits mentioned above. Going for walks, doing outdoor activities, filling a bird feeder (and then indoor birdwatching), and finding outdoor space are ways to engage outdoors in nature.

For those who can’t get outside (or have a serious aversion to cold temperatures), there are ways to enjoy nature indoors that still have a positive impact on your well-being. Indoor plants, nature videos, and windows to windows are ways to enjoy nature from an indoor perspective.

little habits

Looking for a way to start integrating nature into your daily routine? Start with a small habit. Let’s say your goal is to enjoy nature every day. A small habit starts with a grounding moment. The grounding moment for you could be walking to your car to get to work, dropping the kids off at school, or going to the store. The next step in a small habit is the behavior you would like to develop. The behavior could be “I’m going to take a moment to embrace what I see around me on the outside.” Notice the snow-covered branches or the bird on a tree outside. The final step in a small habit is celebration. The celebration might take a long, slow breath. Start simple and before you know it, you’ll find even more ways to enjoy nature.

Find ways to enjoy nature to improve your well-being, yes, even in these winter months. As Albert Camus said, “In the heart of winter I finally learned that there was an invincible summer within me.”

Sharon Mortensen is one of more than 100 local residents who have earned a certificate in Wellness Science. Kathy Snyder has a master’s degree in positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and teaches wellness classes. Mortensen is president and CEO of the Midland Area Community Foundation. Snyder is the coordinator of the Midland Area Wellbeing Coalition. This year, the Wellbeing Coalition will again offer a series of monthly articles offering practical ways to improve wellbeing.


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