|RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—It's just a few weeks until the official first day of winter, but if you feel like you've already fallen into a cold-weather funk, the best prescription might be waiting for you on the other side of your front door. An assortment of research suggests that being exposed to nature, or even just visualizing yourself outside in a natural setting, can greatly improve mental and physical energy.
THE DETAILS: Five studies on the effects of being in nature, conducted by an international team of researchers, appeared in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. The different studies all came to the same conclusion—that being outdoors and exposed to nature is linked to greater vitality. The study authors described vitality as feeling enthusiastic, alive, vigorous, happy, alert, and full of energy.
In one of the studies, participants didn't even have to actually go outdoors. Just the thought of being outside was associated with greater vitality.
Another study dealing with perception involved participants looking at pictures of buildings or natural settings. Looking at the manmade structures sank vitality levels, while looking at the natural scenes produced a better sense of vitality. Outdoor time could enhance the effects of exercise, as well. One of the studies found that people who opted for outdoor strolls reported increased vitality, while those who walked indoors saw no change. The remaining studies looked at participants' activities during a two-week period and found that being exposed to nature, and even just going outside to experience sunlight and fresh air, boosted vitality.