8 Positive Effects of Nature

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Feeling stuck? Feeling blue? Not sure how to get out of a creative rut or a sour mood? Go for a walk! We often overlook the positive effects of nature because nature is always outside our door. But when you get bogged down by distractions, to-do lists, and stress indoors, science shows that nature can help you process your thoughts more effectively, boost your mood, and give you inspiration! 

Eight Positive Effects of Nature 

  • Fresh Air 
  • Bilateral Stimulation and Improved Brain Activity 
  • Natural Light and Vitamin D 
  • Saltwater
  • Phytoncides
  • Mycobacterium Vaccae
  • Interactions and Bonding with Animals 
  • Creativity and Inspiration

Fresh Air 

When you start to think about it, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between indoor air and outdoor air. Air is air, right? Well, they’re not exactly the same. There is a reason why diseases like COVID-19 spread quicker indoors, and why that first breath of fresh, outdoor air feels so good. 

Contaminants pollute the air inside your home all the time, and little ventilation keeps those pollutants in your home. Contaminants can be anything from: 

  • Biological contaminants (mold, bacteria, mildew, animal dander, cockroaches, pollen) 
  • Combustion products (pollutants, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide) 
  • Household chemicals (formaldehyde, pesticides) 
  • Building materials (lead, asbestos) 

Some of these pollutants have become easier to avoid; for example, most buildings are not built with lead anymore or allow cigarette smoke. Other pollutants are harder to avoid. If you don’t have the windows open or have a ventilation system that filters out these pollutants, these invisible contaminants clog the air and make the area less healthy. Stepping outside, where these contaminants are less concentrated, feels like a relief. 

Spending time outdoors feels so great because the air is likely purer. (At the very least, you may be inspired to buy an air freshener.) If you feel stuffy or foggy, that fresh air may be the trick to reset your mind!

Bilateral Stimulation and Improved Brain Activity 

Francine Shapiro is the founder of EMDR therapy. While the therapy is known for its use of eye movement to process trauma, Shapiro actually became inspired to develop the practice after going for a walk. She noticed that, while walking, she was able to process her memories in new ways and think of them without experiencing intense emotions. Walking in nature requires bilateral stimulation, or moving left-to-right, back and forth. Not all EMDR treatments require patients to walk as they process their memories - some may tap their knees with their left, then right, hands, while others may squeeze a fidget cube in alternating hands. 

A walk through nature doesn’t just stimulate both sides of the brain. It increases cognitive function. The increased blood flow to the brain during a walk has long-lasting positive effects. Regular walking has been suggested as a preventative measure for Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other conditions that affect cognitive function. 

Natural Light and Vitamin D 

Unless you decide to go for a walk in the dark, a walk outside exposes you to natural light. Like fresh air, natural light is just better for you than artificial light. Lamps and overhead lighting may help you see, but they don’t help you grow. 

Exposure to natural light allows the skin to absorb Vitamin D, which reduces cancer cell growth, aids in the absorption of calcium, and supports immune health. This vitamin is free - you don’t need to buy supplements or eat food to absorb it! And with few foods containing Vitamin D, exposure to natural light isn’t just beneficial - it’s crucial. 

Natural light also sets the body’s clock. Bodies contain an internal clock known as a “circadian rhythm.” Depending on the time of day, this internal clock will “strike” and signal for the release of melatonin, cortisol, or other hormones. In the evening, for example, the circadian rhythm encourages the release of melatonin to aid in sleep. Light keeps the circadian rhythm moving along or halts it - this is why experts recommend that you shut off your phone and step away from any screens two hours before bed. In the morning, however, you should expose yourself to light - preferably, natural light. 


It’s not just the sun and the fresh air that positively affect our health. If you live near the beach or a saltwater pool, swimming in nature can also benefit your body and mind in many ways. Saltwater isn’t just sodium chloride and H2O…saltwater also contains vitamins and minerals like magnesium, zinc, iron, and potassium. All of these offer different health benefits, and they aren’t always found in an average diet. 

Instead of supplements, try adding more time in nature to your health routine! 


Don’t live near the coast? Prefer the mountains over the beach? You can still add a healthy habit into your routine through “forest bathing.” This practice can simply mean spending time in nature - but there is something special about trees and plants that “bathe” you in phytoncides.

Phytoncides are chemicals released by trees and plants that offer protection from fungi, bacteria, and harmful insects. Think of phytoncides as a plant’s natural bug spray. Exposure to phytoncides can also benefit humans. Studies show that regular trips outside and exposure to phytoncides can: 

  • Increase natural cell activity 
  • Increase anti-cancer proteins
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Reduce stress hormones
  • Improve mood and reduce anxiety
  • Reduce fatigue 

The next time you pass by trees and plants, offer them gratitude! 

Mycobacterium Vaccae

To the naked eye, plants are plants, saltwater is saltwater, and dirt is dirt. But there is clearly so much more to nature than what we see. Dirt, for example, contains a microorganism called mycobacterium vaccae, or M. Vaccae. M. Vaccae is naturally found in soil and potentially has a long list of health benefits. Recent studies show that microorganisms can potentially reduce stress and the risk of developing multiple mental and physical illnesses. The discovery and isolation of this microorganism is still new, but shows promising results. It’s just one more reason to get out in nature and get your hands dirty! 

Interactions and Bonding with Animals 

In nature, you may find plants or you may find creatures! A walk through the dog park, a  visit to the stables, or a day spent at the farm may feel like therapy - and there’s a reason for that. Bonding with animals, whether they’re our pets or unfamiliar (but not dangerous) can offer similar effects as bonding with humans. Even better, animals can’t say things that annoy you! If you would like to add some animal interaction to your time in nature, consider bringing your pet on a walk or volunteering at your local animal shelter.  

Creativity and Inspiration

Last but not least, all of these feel-good chemicals and new ways of stimulating your brain can get your creative juices flowing and inspire you to think differently. A walk through nature is a great way to find solutions through insight learning. Travel, hiking, or swimming can drum up inspiration for your next creative pursuit. Nature is so stimulating in a more satisfying way than social media apps or TV shows. It offers solutions to every problem you may be experiencing!  

Quotes About The Positive Effects of Nature 

  • “Come to the woods for here is rest.“ -John Muir
  • “Nature itself is the best physician.” -Hippocrates
  • “The contemplation of nature can free one of the ego – the great troublemaker.” -Eckhart Tolle
  • “To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.” -Jane Austen
  • “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” –Albert Einstein
  • “For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.” –Martin Luther King Jr.
  • “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” -Jacques Cousteau
  • “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” -John Muir 
  • “Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work.” -Frank Lloyd Wright
  • “Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” -Khalil Gibran
  • “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” -Edward Abbey
  • “It’s the idea that people living close to nature tend to be noble. It’s seeing all those sunsets that does it. You can’t watch a sunset and then go off and set fire to your neighbor’s tepee. Living close to nature is wonderful for your mental health.” -Daniel Quinn

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2022, December). 8 Positive Effects of Nature. Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/positive-effects-of-nature/.

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