Nature and wellbeing: get back to the great outdoors

Specialist Nurse Adviser at Bupa UK
20 August 2018

It’s predicted that two thirds of the world’s population will live in a city or urban area by 2050. With all the hustle and bustle that comes with an urban lifestyle, it’s sometimes easy to forget the natural world that’s still out there.

The link between our health and nature is growing in interest; particularly as the world’s population and urbanisation continues to rise. So, have you ever actually considered the impact nature can have on your health, wellbeing and happiness?

Camper van on a cliff top

Health benefits of nature

Though the evidence base is quite small at this time, spending time in nature has a huge range of potential benefits to your wellbeing, such as:

  • improving your compassion and empathy
  • increasing your happiness and improving your mood
  • reducing stress and anger
  • helping those who have anxiety or depression
  • helping people who have SAD (a type of depression that often happens during the winter months)
  • boosting relaxation
  • encouraging you to be active
  • improving your self-esteem and confidence
  • giving you a greater sense of satisfaction with life
  • encouraging you to learn new skills, with some research suggesting it may even make you smarter!
  • helping you to feel more connected to nature, yourself and other people

So if you’re feeling run down by the traffic and overwhelmed by the skyscrapers of the concrete jungle, perhaps it’s time to rediscover the great outdoors.

How to get involved with nature

An image of a woman camping in the woods

Make a bug hotel

Encourage nature and wildlife into your garden by making a bug hotel or hedgehog house. This is a great activity to get your kids involved in too.

Go camping

Pitching a tent and watching the kettle boil can take you back to the simpler pleasures in life. Some research has also indicated that it can be helpful for a good night’s sleep because you’re away from artificial light that can disrupt your natural sleep patterns. Being outdoors allows your body clock to realign with the natural light of sunrise and sunset.

Get involved with a conservation project

Volunteering and getting together with other people for a good cause can increase your sense of wellbeing and purpose. It’s also a great way to meet new and like-minded people. There’s likely to be lots of projects and groups happening in your local area that you can get involved with.

Grow some veggies and herbs to put in your meals

Fresh mint, chives and basil are delicious additions to meal times and easy to grow in your own garden. They are also quite easy to grow in pots on a balcony or patio area if you don’t have a big garden. You could also grow some fruit and vegetables like chilli, tomatoes and rhubarb too.

Plant flowers that will attract butterflies

According to the RSPB, butterfly-friendly plants and flowers include the following:

  • Spring: Lady’s-smock, Bugle and Goat willow
  • Summer: English lavender, Marjoram and Coneflower
  • Autumn: Iceplant, Ivy and Michelmas daisy

Then sit back and relax as you watch beautiful, multi-coloured butterflies flutter around your garden.

Take your dog for a walk somewhere new

Take your pooch on an adventure to explore a new place to run, sniff and play ball. Pack coffee and a snack and set off to pastures new. You’ll enjoy it as much as your dog will!

Go on a nature walk or take part in a nature survey

Explore your local woodlands while looking out for birds, fish, squirrels, frogs and insects. If you’re taking part in a survey you may be asked to count and report your sightings.

Go stargazing

Take time out to look up at the stars, spot comets or watch different phases of the moon. Some areas offer stargazing courses, or you can read up online about the different constellations and activity happening in the sky.

Eat al fresco

Eating outside is a great way to relax and a good break from the routine of watching TV with your dinner on your knees.

Visit a city farm or local wildlife spot

If you live in an urban area, see if there’s a local city farm nearby. It’s a nice place to take the kids and see donkeys, goats and rabbits. There might even be opportunities to volunteer too.

How to bring the outside in

There are also lots of ways you can bring nature into your home too.

An image of indoor plants on a windowsill

Natural scents

Use natural fragrances such as spraying lavender or jasmine on your pillow at night or buy some scented candles.

Indoor plants

Decorate your home with green plants. If you’re worried about keeping them alive, go for cacti and succulents which are easier to care for. Or you could even get some artificial plants.

Arts and crafts

Collect natural materials and display or make something with them. Gather driftwood, sea glass, shells, pebbles and feathers, for example.

Photography

Use a photo of your favourite natural place as your screensaver on your phone. Every time you look at that memory of the beach it will give you a little lift. Take a second to close your eyes, take a deep breath and be transported back to that moment. You could also put some photos up around your home to remind you of your happy travels.

Interior design

Buy a floral duvet set or cushion to bring some colour into your bedroom or living room.

Sounds from the natural world

Listen to natural sounds such as the waves, rain falling or sounds of animals in the jungle as a method of relaxation. Close your eyes and drift away to somewhere exotic.

Watch nature programmes

Watch a nature documentary. Some research has suggested that watching a nature programme can have the same benefits as doing meditation. So on that final note, enjoy this clip of David Attenborough saying boo to a sloth.




Are you interested in learning more about your health? Discover more about our range of health assessments.

Fatmata Kamara
Specialist Nurse Adviser at Bupa UK

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