Mental health researchers have repeatedly found evidence for improved mental health with exposure to nature. Not that we needed another reason to immerse ourselves in the beauty and wonder of the natural world; what a gift from Mother Nature! Being in nature can be refreshing with the solitude of a lone walk or as a shared experience with family, friends, and colleagues. Whether on a hike, run, paddle, or biking activity, we now know with great certainty it is not only good for our physical selves, but also for our mental and emotional selves.

Alternatively, extended exposure to urban environments, cubicles, artificial light, and device screens is related to increased levels of anxiety, depression and stress. The body and mind are not, of course, independent entities as they are sometimes treated. They interact, communicate, and collaborate constantly.

Physiological Benefits

Spending time in nature has a physiological effect on the body, reducing blood pressure and the hormone cortisol, which is associated with stress. Thus, our time in nature serves to lessen stress and “refresh” our brains, improving focus, creativity and problem-solving. More natural light in outdoor settings is also related to improved sleeping patterns, which in turn also promotes healthier minds and bodies. It has also been shown to improve our social interactions and emotional support from others.

Brains are almost always capable of being very busy, even when we sleep. Mindfulness and meditation skills have gained in popularity over the past few decades, in part because they offer us a set of skills to practice simple and powerful focusing, as well as a means by which to quiet our minds for periods of time.

Quieting the Mind

Being in nature can serve as a “natural” mindful meditation. When we are in nature our attention is often directed externally onto the beauty and wonder surrounding us. This most often serves to get us “out of our heads” and “into nature”. We often experience this as the quieting of our minds. So, get out there and improve your overall health while immersing yourself in nature.

Blog contributed by Gary Sater, PhD
Retired Clinical and Sport Psychologist

Master Naturalist Volunteer

Below are two posters Dr. Sater has created as part of his Wisconsin Master Naturalist capstone project to increase awareness about the mental health benefits of being in nature. 

2018 CD Besadny Conservation Grant Awardees

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin has awarded $28,043 to 30 organizations across Wisconsin through the C.D. Besadny Conservation Fund. The fund annually awards grants up to $1,000 that support grassroots conservation and education projects.

Jim Hlaban recognized as water hero

You can tell a lot about Jim Hlaban’s commitment to conservation from his email signature: “If we don’t do it, who will?” Jim and his wife, Mary, recently made a commitment to protect Wisconsin’s waters into perpetuity by creating the Wisconsin Water Protection Fund, which will make annual grants to numerous conservation organizations working to protect water resources across the state.

From climate-change denier to conservationist

Like many Wisconsinites, there was a time when Joey believed the environmental movement to be at odds with business and personal-property rights. Today, Joey integrates green practices into his business—Heinrichs Home Comfort, a residential HVAC company. Joey’s commitment to conservation might mean a lower profit margin, but he takes pride in knowing that he’s contributing to energy efficiency.

Conservation in a Can

The Giving Brewery is a partnership between Octopi Brewing and 105.5 Triple M. Together they create and market exceptional craft brews that support different nonprofit organizations like the Natural Resources Foundation.

Wisconsin Master Naturalist Volunteer Training: An inside look

The Wisconsin Master Naturalist Program was launched in 2013 and since then an incredible 663 volunteers have already been trained, contributing more than 55,000 hours of service in their communities. Our own Caitlin Williamson recently added her name to this list and shares her story.

Prairie restoration at Faville Prairie SNA

Faville Prairie is a highly diverse prairie with over 200 native prairie plants, but in recent years, invasive shrubs and trees have invaded the remnant prairie resulting in a loss of native species diversity. With support from the Natural Resources Foundation, the Arboretum worked with Tallgrass Restoration, LLC, to remove about eight acres of invasive shrubs and trees as part of a prairie restoration at Faville Prairie SNA.

Kestrel Banding with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin

The Natural Resources Foundation’s kestrel banding Field Trip is a long-time favorite. These trips are so popular that it can be hard to get a spot. Fortunately, one incredible Field Trip participant put together an amazing slideshow to share his experience. 

Diversity in Conservation

The natural world is something that every person living in Wisconsin has a right to enjoy. Historically, however, the underprivileged and people of color have not had the same opportunities to access the outdoors when compared to more privileged communities. We are committed to removing barriers so that every Wisconsinite has a chance to connect with nature.

Importance of bat monitoring to saving Wisconsin’s bats

White-nose syndrome is devastating Wisconsin bat populations, decreasing them by as much as 98% in some locations. Volunteer bat monitors are helping Wisconsin DNR and other groups to assess the impact and, hopefully, save our bats.

Kirtland’s Warbler Recovery, Ongoing Efforts

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to remove the Kirtland’s warbler from the federal endangered species list. Most of us in the conservation community greet news of a species being removed from the endangered species list with mixed emotions.