It took me a while to understand the value of spending time in the woods. After living close to a pretty big city my whole life, my family one day decided to buy a cabin. Getting used to the urban lifestyle is quite an easy task. Everything is available at any time. But getting used to living close to nature is something else. After spending weeks and months in a (hidden) cabin in the Scandinavian woods, I can summarize the biggest advantages of living close to nature.
Living close to nature is connected with a series of different advantages. Science suggests that it helps you to reduce stress, which will lead to a longer life. Additionally, being less exposed to air pollution weighs heavy for many people that currently lives in larger cities. Staying close to nature will also naturally increase your education level about various plants and animals.
Later in this article, I will tell a little about my own experience. In addition to that, I’ll highlight some relevant scientific findings – and you would hate to miss out on them. 🙂
Table of Contents
- Introducing: the cabin
- Argument 1: You will live longer
- Argument 2: You will be less exposed to pollution
- Argument 3: You will be able to relax
- Argument 4: Decreasing stress levels
- Argument 5: You will learn an awful lot about animals
- Movie suggestion
- Conclusion – how to take advantage of the nature for your own health benefit
Introducing: the cabin
First of all: this is a picture of our cabin:
This is where the whole inspiration for this article started. So by “living close to nature”, I do not necessarily mean that you need to pack your bag and permanently move to the Amazon. Buying/renting a cabin is more than enough. Or simply start by taking a weekend in a hotel resort away from the city.
PS! As mentioned previously, some of the statements in this article is based on my own opinion. However, most of the text is based upon various research from external sources. References will always be mentioned in the article.
Argument 1: You will live longer
According to this article by Washington Post, people that live in “greener” areas will typically live longer in comparison to those who don’t. In fact, it is not the nature itself that gives you a couple of extra years on the planet. According to the study, which was conducted by Environmental Health Perspectives, living close to nature will provide you with “improved mental health, social engagement and physical activity”.
Those are certainly factors that a lot of people overlook in this context. Who would think that having trees and animals around would increase the possibility of you getting some exercise?
I am definitely looking forward to those extra five years my trips to the cabin will me in the end. 🙂
Argument 2: You will be less exposed to pollution
Air pollution might not sound like a big deal. But it is. According to this report that was published in CBS News, about 50 % of all Americans live in areas that have air pollution levels that are “dangerously high”. As many Europeans and Americans see air pollution as a typical “development country problem”, they do not understand the impact of what that can do to your body.
There are two reasons why living outside the city would get you less exposed to air pollution:
1) Trees can help to absorb dangerous particles in the air. In other words, the more trees you have around your house or your cabin, the more “protected” you are.*
2) Factories and transportation are two of the biggest contributors to air pollution. You would find neither of those in the woods.
*= Actually, this is a topic where many scientists disagree. Planting 1 million trees in New York City will not equal cleaning up the air totally. In order to explain this in a more professional way than I can do, I will quote this article from sciencefocus.com:
“Particulate matter suspended in polluted air tends to settle onto leaves, and certain gases including nitrous dioxide (NO2) are absorbed by leaves’ stomata, filtering the air and reducing pollution levels slightly. But trees and other vegetation also restrict airflow in their immediate vicinity, preventing pollution from being diluted by currents of cleaner air.”
Argument 3: You will be able to relax
I would even say that by getting into nature is taking relaxation to a new level. Actually, my yoga teacher once used those words. “Taking relaxation to a new level”. However, I did not feel the same in her class as I did when I was sitting in a chair in the middle of the woods, hearing distinct animal sounds and smelling the flowers. Just incredible.
If you haven’t done it: you should.
Argument 4: Decreasing stress levels
Stress is a type of physical condition that can be really hard to deal with. Our modern life does not really increase our chances to live in a relaxed environment. According to certain studies, more than 100 million people die every year as a direct result of stress. One hundred million deaths annually. Just try to think about that number for a second.
Now, in order to not be a part of that statistics, there are certain things you can do. Get closer to nature is one of them. Ewert et al (2018) published a study called “Levels of Nature and Stress Response”. The study tried to find a correlation factor between human stress levels and how much that person was exposed for nature. Their conclusion does not leave a lot of doubt:
“Findings suggest that visiting natural environments can be beneficial in reducing both physical and psychological stress levels, with visitors to a natural environment reporting significantly lower levels of stress than their counterparts visiting a more urbanized outdoor setting or indoor exercise facility.”
The study also showed that long-term exposure for wildlife and nature was the very best option. Visiting a park in a big city (Central Park in New York, anyone?) would help, but would only have a limited effect. Being exposed for an urban environment over a long period of time was the absolute worst you could do in terms of stress management.
Argument 5: You will learn an awful lot about animals
I am not talking about being chased by a grizzly bear in North Alaska. Well, that would learn you a thing or two as well. But living close to some famous and seldom animals really make you interested in biology – in a quite weird way.
These are some of the animals I have been less than 5 meters away from while being at my cabin:
- Moose (yes, that one was a bit scary).
- Every day small insects/bugs like bees, various types of ants, etc.
- A tortoise. Yes, seriously – just check this link. ☺
Before I will give you the conclusion, I will just quickly talk about a movie I saw a couple of years ago. In fact, it was so good that I have seen it three times since. “Into the Wild” is a Hollywood production based on a true story.
It follows an American student that sold everything he owned, bought a van and moved into the Alaskan wilderness. If this movie does not inspire you to true living close to nature: nothing will!
Conclusion – how to take advantage of the nature for your own health benefit
I hope that you already know start to see the benefits of living outside the city. Reduced stress level, better mental health and frequent meetings with rare animals are just some of the advantages. Luckily, you don’t have to invest a lot of money or time in such a project.
Another point worth to mention is that this isn’t black or white. In other words: spending a little time close to nature is much better than spending no time in the woods. I know that family and work can sometimes work as a hindrance to move to less urban areas. In that case, I would think that these would be great ideas to get a bit out:
– Take your family or friends to camping during weekends. Buy a tent.
– If you feel that you’re not getting enough time outside, buy a bike. Investing in a bike was a brilliant way for me to get exercise and spend more time in nature.
– When going on holiday, try not to choose the most urban areas. I know that most people like to live in the city center of New York, but that’s not very healthy…nor special.
If you have any questions about living in the woods that you want me to answer: feel free to ask in the comment section below. That section can also be used if you want to give other people advice about spending time in a “natural environment”.