Cape Point Nature Reserve

Just an hour’s drive from the bustle and buzz of downtown Cape Town lies a large and peaceful reserve: Cape Point – one of the most scenically spectacular parks in the whole of South Africa.

Being out in nature is not only good for your physical health, it is also very beneficial for your mental health. Have you noticed how grumpy people get in winter compared to their mood during spring and summer? I think it is because we don’t always get out into nature during winter and that this affects our mental health negatively.

Here are some reasons why nature is good for your soul.

( All of these photos were taken on a recent trip I went on to the Cape Point Nature Reserve. It is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.)

1. Nature helps to center your mind

If we don’t watch out we are constantly glancing at your to-do list or worrying about, our finances, our relationships, or something else. It seems like we constantly have a never-ending list of things to do. We need to make it a point to give ourselves a cognitive break by distracting ourselves with the sights and sounds of the outdoors. Watch and listen to the birds chirping, the waves crashing, the trees swaying in the wind, and the bugs moving around you. Taking at least a 30min break a day will help improve our mental health.

2. Unplug and Escape the technological trap.

Multi-tasking, particularly with electronic devices, is a leading cause of stress. Breaking free from the never-ending loop of your Facebook or Instagram newsfeed should be a top reason for getting outdoors. After all, staring at screens too long can hurt your eyes and strain your neck, and it’s often a sedentary activity. Nature, on the other hand, offers a beautiful window into real life. Put down your phone. leave your devices behind and head into nature and just enjoy the calming effect this will have. Nature allows us to to leave the stressors of our everyday lives behind and instead focus our minds on something more pure. By centering your mind, you can relax your body.

3. It Lowers Stress Hormone Levels

It’s true that many of us don’t realize how highly strung we’ve become until we take a step back from it all, let go of the pen welded to our fingers, and tell our shoulders to come back down from our ears.

A recent Dutch study suggests that spending time in nature and performing repetitive tasks such as gardening can fight stress better than other leisure activities.

In Japan, this has really caught on and forest bathing is now an official stress management activity. Research into the effects of these au naturel excursions has found a significant decrease in anger, anxiety, and depression, as well as better immune function.

4. Nature Heightens the Senses and Memory

Spending time outdoors can actually strengthen your senses and memory. When in nature, you’re exposed to plenty of sights, smells, sounds, and touches and have ample amounts of new things to take in.

These experiences help enhance all your senses, and being outdoors has also been proven to improve short term memory. You don’t need to spend hours outdoors even short periods of time are very beneficial.

5. Learn something new.

Walking around and exploring your surroundings is an excellent opportunity to learn something new about the world. We often take things for granted and it’s only when we look around us that we notice how little we know about the world. What’s the name of that flower that you see around the corner every day? What sort of tree grows along the path you are on? And what do you call that critter that scooted across the road this morning? After a walk, Google what you saw or take out books from the library on flowers, trees, or animals to find answers. You can also arrange for walking tours with experts or visit local botanic gardens that have informative signs. Then when you go for walks with others at a later date, you can wow them with your newfound knowledge.

6. Nature can help you keep it together

It’s all too easy to get caught in a busy cycle of working non-stop and not taking breaks to go outside, relax for a moment, and breathe in some fresh air. But having a good work/life balance is crucial if you want to have a long, happy existence.

Nature is the glue that can help you keep it together in this increasingly noisy world, as research shows that it can improve both your mental and physical health. No matter how far you feel like travelling, you can always spend at least a little time in nature each day. Whether you take a short, 10-minute walk around your neighborhood or a one-hour stroll along a trail in the woods, getting outside more often is a wonderful first step toward living an even healthier life.