Get Outside: 5 Research-Backed Reasons You Need Nature 

The other day, I made eye contact with an owl.

It was during my daily walk through the woods near my home. Although I live in the city, I strategically chose this apartment in part because of its proximity to these nature trails. 

I stared at the owl for a long time, and for the most part, it stared back. I watched its head swivel toward the sounds of critters in the dry leaves below, and eventually, watched in amazement as it spread its enormous wings and took off from the perch.

Moments like these are the reason I make it my duty to get out in nature as often as possible, even though I’m a city boy at heart. 

Being in nature allows us to engage with the world around us. We have magical moments, like mine with the owl, and the great outdoors helps to ground us and brings a deeper sense of universal connection.

And if that all sounds a little too woo-woo for you, don’t worry. Though plenty of people (myself included) connect with nature as part of their spiritual journey, scientists draw the same conclusions. 

Below are five different studies that show you why it’s so important that you get outside and enjoy the world on a regular basis. 


Resources for accessing nature

This article explains the many ways nature is beneficial for our minds and bodies, but accessing nature isn’t always easy. Many places in the United States lack green space, and larger nature preserves may be out of reach. 

There are plenty of resources that can help people find affordable ways to access nature. Here are a few to check out: 

Local Libraries and Community Centers: There is no better place to start than within your local community. Pay them a visit or give them a call, and they can likely point you in the right direction. 

Find a Park helps you find the closest national park, from the National Park Service. 

Discover the Forest will give you a map of nearby natural areas to explore based on your location. 

Outward Bound is an outdoor educational program that hosts expeditions in nature for people of all ages. 

Social Media: Choose your favorite social media channel, and you can find recommendations on places to visit. Look at Subreddits or Facebook groups for your local area, or use hashtags or location searches on TikTok or Instagram. 


1. Access to nature reduces stress (which makes everything better)

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put together.” —John Burroughs, essayist and naturalist 

When you look at all the research about the benefits of being in nature, so many of them tie back to one concept: stress. 

When we talk about stress in this context, we aren’t solely talking about the day-to-day worry you might feel. We are talking about stress as a psychological and physiological response, one tied to feelings of fear, insecurity, and anxiety.

Stress produces chemicals in our body that serve us when there is immediate danger. But stress also degrades the mind and body—especially if we experience unnecessary feelings of stress. 

Reducing stress, on the other hand, promotes physical and emotional health. That’s why I’m starting with this concept—because the reduction of stress is the core reason why we need to get outside and experience nature regularly. 

Many research groups have put forward this theory, but it’s underscored in a research paper in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, which revealed a connection between nature and our stress responses. 

In this study, participants first watched a stressful movie, then were shown video and audio of either nature scenes or urban environments. 

Researchers measured how well individuals recovered from their stress responses—and those who saw images of nature recovered from stress faster. 

The researchers suggested that nature has “restorative influences” that prompt a “shift towards a more positively-toned emotional state” and “positive changes in physiological activity levels.” 

In other words: Exposure to nature means less stress, and less stress means a healthier mind and body. 


2. Two hours a week in nature is enough to experience benefits (and more is even better)

“Walking is man’s best medicine.” —Hippocrates, ancient Greek physician  When you think about connecting with nature, you might imagine pitching a tent in some isolated forest or trekking for days up a mountain. 

If you enjoy those things, by all means, go for it.

But experiencing nature doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. In fact, according to research published in Nature, Scientific Reports, you only need two hours per week to start feeling the benefits of nature exposure. 

Researchers asked participants to report both their exposure to nature and their mental and physical well-being over the course of a week. 

They found that “the likelihood of reporting good health or high well-being became significantly greater” after just 120 minutes of exposure to nature in a week. 

So that’s it. Two hours a week outside, and you’ll start to reap some of the benefits I cover in the rest of this article. There are plenty of ways to sneak that into your weekly routine: 

  • Walk part or all of the way to work 
  • Do yoga in the public park
  • Take a child in your life to the playground on Saturday 
  • Volunteer to walk a friend’s dog 
  • Pick up garbage in your local park once a week 
  • Take your morning cup of coffee on a walk around the block every day

And if you can stretch your time spent outside beyond two hours, you’ll get even more benefits. The same study found that positive emotional and physical well-being reports peaked after 200 to 300 minutes of exposure, and stayed steady after that.


3. Nature can improve focus and creativity

“Nature gets into our souls and opens doors to hidden parts of ourselves.” —Pamela Heyda, artist 

The benefits of nature go beyond physical and mental wellness. Spending time in nature can also improve our mental acuity, our ability to focus, and our creativity. 

The American Psychological Association cites one study that compared the attention functionality of adults in public housing facilities, finding that those who had access to green space outperformed those who didn’t. A similar study found that children who attended schools with green spaces also performed better academically. 

Another study out of Australia tasked students with a boring task, and gave some of the participants a break during the test during which they looked at images of greenery for a few seconds, while others looked at a concrete rooftop. You can probably guess which group of students made fewer mistakes with the task—those who got the chance to observe nature, even for just a few seconds. 

By the way, if you’re looking for other ways to improve focus and manage your time better, check out these resources: 

Researchers have also found that spending time in nature stimulates creative parts of our brain. When we spend time in nature, our minds naturally begin to wander—and research published in frontiers in Psychology suggests that this can lead to more creative thinking. 


4. Green cities are happier cities

“The parks stand as the outward symbol of the great human principle.”  —President Franklin D. Roosevelt

In that quote, FDR is talking about America’s spectacular National Parks, which provide ample and affordable opportunities for people to connect with nature. 

But you don’t need to go to a national park to enjoy the benefits of nature. Research has shown us that green spaces in cities improve well-being. 

A study in ScienceDirect found that there was a strong correlation between the amount of green space in an urban environment and the self-reported happiness of residents living nearby. Not surprisingly, the quality of that green space also impacted those happiness reports.  

So if you are trying to figure out where to live after leaving home, you might want to consider the amount of green space you’ll have access to. 

Lawn Love performed a study in 2023 that looked at places in the US with the most green space. Here’s their top ranking if you’re interested in visiting cities with more green space: 

 Lawn Love's map shows the cities with the most and least green space in 2023.
U.S. map of green space, courtesy of Lawn Love

5. Connecting with nature is good for community and social behavior

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”  —William Shakespeare

I am a big fan of long, solitary walks through the woods (that’s how I ended up spotting that owl). But research shows that nature not only helps us heal and grow internally but also promotes stronger community bonds. 

A research paper in Bioscience catalogs a number of studies that found connections between access to nature and community cohesion, as well as lower crime rates. 

It makes sense if you think about it: Green spaces like public parks, beaches, and preserves are naturally community spaces, where people can gather and interact. Green spaces can build our connection with one another, which makes for safer, happier communities.

The sense of community brought about by natural spaces has a global impact as well, according to the researchers:

The benefits of community cohesion may extend beyond the social and personal sphere to the environmental concern that benefits global environmental problems, and research shows that when individuals live in more cohesive societies, they are more likely to contribute with environmentally friendly behaviors.


If you made it to the end of this article, then there’s only one thing left to do: Close your computer, shut off your phone, and get outside! Build the outdoors into your daily routine, and soon you’ll be reaping the rewards.