There’s been a lot of news lately about the correlation of happiness and being outdoors in nature. Ecopsychology, also known as “green therapy,” has been proven to lift the mood, decrease stress and anxiety, and increase focus. So, what is it about being outdoors that soothes us? Besides the obvious factors like peace and tranquility, the colors of nature such as green and blue are soothing to our psyches, while grey (a primary color of urban areas) can promote lack of energy.
We can trace this correlation of nature and happiness back to our hunter and gatherer days, where we spent most of our time outdoors living off the land. (We were also a lot less stressed out.) Great advances came with the evolution of our species, but with that progress also came serious levels of stress and unhealthy living. Now more than ever, the majority of the population worldwide lives in cramped, heavily populated urban areas.
If you were wondering why you feel so anxious in bustling cities like NYC, you are not alone. Studies show NYC is the most unhappy city in America, citing poor quality of life, poverty, and high rents as the culprits. Unfortunately, those three determining factors are only getting worse in most urban areas.
As someone who grew up outside playing sports, camping etc., in the ever-sunny state of California, I can attest that acclimating to living in a cramped, grey, often overcast city like NYC was a serious adjustment in every way imaginable. In fact, the first year I was sick with a cold almost monthly. I also noticed major disturbances in my sleep, stress levels, and overall well-being. I thought I was alone, but it turns out (as the study above indicates), it happens to a lot of people. Eventually I adjusted, started my own business, and started getting out of the city often. Getting outdoors and connecting with nature on a regular basis is everything. In fact, many entrepreneurs will tell you the freedom to escape, make your own schedule, and travel whenever you want is a saving grace to their well-being.
At the end of the day, a happy life is about balance. What is the point of working hard if you’re always stressed out and not enjoying the fruits of your labor? What is an urbanite to do? While some of us enjoy living in urban areas, at least theoretically, it’s important to make a point to be in nature and get outdoors. Whether that’s jogging through Central Park or taking weekend trips to go hiking, get outside. Your mind and body will thank you.
For more info and tips on wellness and nature, check out this handy infographic below, courtesy of Happify.