It’s no secret that nature can boost mental well-being. As humans, we evolved outdoors before there were houses, buildings, and restaurants.
Observing wildlife can significantly alter our moods and outlooks on life. Humans have collectively spent far more time in the wild than in urban living conditions. It makes sense that we feel and think better when returning to our roots.
Nature-lover Carla Konyk-Tulp has a deep background in science and offers a unique perspective on why we benefit so much from spending time in the natural world.
Nature Elicits Positive Cues in Our Brains
Humans are hardwired to enjoy nature in all its glory, from wide-open green spaces to grazing wildlife.
The human nervous system is incredibly complex and still an important area of research. However, we know a few things that shed light on our affinity for natural environments.
Positive cues are anything that stimulates a sense of well-being in your brain. When you view nature in photographs (or, especially, in person), your brain responds accordingly.
In today’s busy, stressful, and overwhelming world, it can pay off in the long run to stop and smell the roses — literally.
An Exercise in Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the act of observing one’s thoughts and surroundings without attaching judgments to them. Sounds simple, right?
It turns out that mindfulness is a skill. And like any skill, it takes practice to get better.
Observing wildlife is a natural mindfulness practice. When we’re out in nature or even just watching nature videos online, our minds are fully attuned to what we’re seeing. Why is this?
One reason nature and wildlife exercise our mindfulness abilities is that other species are different from us. When humans encounter unfamiliar beings, we tend to watch them closely.
Being surrounded by nature and wildlife is all-encompassing. Other thoughts and feelings can easily take a backseat to what we are observing. Before we know it, our minds can be entirely taken over by the simple movements, sounds, and sensations in nature.
Carla Konyk-Tulp’s advice for a quick mental health boost is to “take a moment to notice a colorful bird today, and share that moment with your child.”
Natural Environments Calm Our Bodies and Minds
Spending time in nature while observing wildlife not only provides us with mindful moments but also has physiological benefits.
Exposure to outdoor environments is linked to reduced blood pressure, lower stress levels, and increased feelings of happiness. Who doesn’t need a little of that in their life?
As a species, we evolved with an intense need to connect with the natural world around us. We had no other options; we were raised in the wild until fairly recently on our evolutionary timeline.
This might explain why we instinctively feel much happier when surrounded by plants, animals, and natural scenery.
About Carla Konyk-Tulp
As the vice president and director of administration at the University of Science, Arts and Technology in Montserrat, Carla Konyk-Tulp spends much of her time mentoring and educating Ph.D. and M.D. students. Konyk-Tulp emphasizes the importance of wildlife in her personal life. She can spend hours just watching and learning about the local wildlife in any given area.