The Powerful Benefits of Nature for Educators
This week, we’re continuing our series on self-care for educators with a focus on the benefits of nature! When you work in a demanding and stressful profession, it’s essential to prioritize self-care and relaxation. Research shows that relaxation in nature is especially beneficial.
Beyond its beauty, nature significantly benefits your mood, physical and mental health, and overall well-being. And reaping these benefits doesn’t require a significant time investment. The benefits of nature are so powerful that even a plant in your classroom will help reduce your stress and anxiety!
What Are the Benefits of Nature?
Nature gives us a sense of wonder, calm, and appreciation. It increases pleasant feelings and reduces feelings like anger and fear, leaving us feeling calm and balanced. Research shows that nature inspires a sense of connection to others and to our environment. It sparks empathy, love, and belonging. Overall, time spent in nature improves mood, meaningfulness, vitality, and well-being.
Additionally, nature-based self-care is linked to lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. Sunlight boosts serotonin, which keeps you calm, positive, and focused and provides more energy. Research shows that nature even sharpens aspects of thinking like creativity, memory, and attention. It improves your attention span and ability to focus.
Finally, nature positively impacts your physical health. It reduces blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension. As a result, you have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. Spending time in nature, or even just looking at nature, can lead to a healthier and longer life.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed or disheartened, time spent in nature is a great way to restore balance. It will calm you, lift your mood, and even sharpen your mind and improve your health.
Ideas for Enjoying the Benefits of Nature
We recently emailed our readers (teachers) asking them to name an act of self-care they had done for themselves in the past week. Of the 273 replies, 19 mentioned enjoying the benefits of nature.
Here are a few of their responses:
- “We had a family tech-free day with a backyard getaway.” -Arceli V.
- “My self-care this week was going to the river with my dog and reading and relaxing.” -Prudence K.
- “I spent yesterday afternoon on a raft in Lake Tahoe. Just relaxing!” -Nicole C.
- “I worked on our garden and went for a walk last night.” -Rachel F.
- “I’ve been taking morning walks to watch the sunrise with a cup of homemade brew. What a wonderful way to begin the day!” -Katrina B.
- “I spent the afternoon on the water kayaking with my sister. What a beautiful day and we had an amazing time!” -Amy T.
- “My self-care: a daily 25-minute swim in the pool!” -Pam V.
Nature-based self-care doesn’t require a weekend getaway to a stunning vista or a national park. No matter how limited your time is, it’s possible to incorporate more nature into your life.
Visit a nearby hiking trail or body of water, take a walk in your neighborhood, or even relax in your backyard. Simply being outdoors is enough to reap the benefits of nature.
Promoting Nature-Based Self-Care for Students
In our tech-driven world, spending time in nature is becoming a less popular pastime for kids. Talk to your students about how enjoying nature will make them happier and healthier.
Here are some other ways to introduce your students to the benefits of nature:
- Share how you incorporate nature into your own life and how it benefits you.
- Lead a nature hike or scavenger hunt.
- Add books about nature to your bookshelves.
- Display photos of inspiring natural wonders from around the world.
- If you go outdoors to transition to other spaces, like the cafeteria, encourage your students to notice the sights, sounds, or smells around them.
- Ask students to observe nature at home and draw pictures of what they see.
- If possible, place a few plants in your classroom, or even help students grow small plants of their own. Research shows that the more plants people have in their offices and classrooms, the fewer sick days they have. Simply putting a plant or two in your classroom can have a tremendous effect on stress and anxiety.
Incorporating nature in your classroom engages students and sparks their creativity and imagination. The more students are exposed to the beauty of nature, the more likely they are to enjoy its benefits!
Final Thoughts: Benefits of Nature as Self-Care
Spending time outdoors helps you feel peaceful, relaxed, happier, and healthier. It sharpens your mind, sparks feelings of connection and belonging, and can even extend your life. It’s a powerful way to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress while boosting your energy and focus.
Make time for a nature-based weekend getaway, a morning walk, or simply reading a favorite book in your backyard. Enjoying even a little green space and sunshine will make a huge difference in your mood and your well-being!