A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests people who are outside in nature for at least 120 minutes each week – or, 18 minutes a day – are much more likely to have better overall health and a higher psychological well-being compared to those that don’t embrace the outdoors.
Interestingly, people that spent time outside, but less than 120 minutes a week, “were no more likely to report good health or high well-being than those who reported 0 minutes,” the study authors found.
The 120 minute benchmark can be divided as a person sees fit – long sessions, short ones, in a forest, parks, woodlands, beaches, etc.
This research backs a number of previous studies that show nature is essential to better physical and mental health. A 2015 study published in the journal Landscape compared people who took at 50-minute walk through an urban area vs. those that did the same walk through nature, finding the latter group had decreased levels of anxiety and higher levels of happiness. Exposure to nature “reduces mental fatigue and the feelings of irritability that come with it,” according to the study.
A similar study from the same year found people that took a 30-minute walk in nature vs. on a road ruminated less than the urban walkers. The nature walkers also “showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness,” according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
But, it’s important to note that the Scientific Reports study doesn’t prove causality. People that enjoy nature may already have a brighter psychological disposition, for example.
Regardless, it’s an easy solution that anyone can follow – go green for 120 minutes a week (18 minutes a day) to improve your health and happiness.
“120 minutes contact with nature per week may reflect a kind of ‘threshold,’ below which there is insufficient contact to produce significant benefits to health and well-being,” write the authors.
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