Feeling a little stressed with the upcoming holidays, work, and family? There’s a growing body of evidence supporting the theory that getting outside can have a beneficial effect on our overworked bodies and minds. A recent study published in the journal Science, found that spending a little time in nature, (and looking at birds in particular), made people feel more positive. As early as the 1980s, a study found that surgery patients needed fewer painkillers and had shorter recovery times if they had a room with a view of nature. Fast forward a few decades to a study of people during the COVID lockdown that found those who spent time outside reported less depression, anxiety, and stress.

The big takeaway is that nature has a very powerful effect on wellbeing. One theory as to why it may have such a soothing effect on people is that the stress of our everyday lives requires  constant and intense focus. Nature helps us to disengage from that stress and engage instead in a kind of open-eyed meditation as we watch nature all around us, like birds flitting from branch to branch or water flowing peacefully down a canal or river.

Evidence is strong and growing that people tend to be happier, healthier, more productive, creative, and engaged when nature is a meaningful part of their lives. A movement in the U.S. called Park Prescriptions (ParkRx) focuses on national parks, healthcare providers, and the emerging trend of actually prescribing nature to improve mental and physical health. There are more than 100 ParkRx programs nationwide in 37 states.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the demands of the season, the weather, whatever, remember that every health plan purchased through Your Health Idaho covers ten essential health benefits including mental health and substance abuse services. Reach out to your insurance carrier or your healthcare provider to find help in your area.