Ever wonder why you feel so happy and relaxed when you spend time outdoors whether it be for a walk in the woods, around the block or just working in your garden? Well, it's probably no surprise to anyone who is a nature lover that we can experience profound moments of peace, happiness and wellness in the context of nature. This is part of a universal condition. It also emphasizes that contact with nature is an integral part of our well-being as humans.

Sounds so simple but many of us when wanting to improve our overall health will tend to overlook this simple fact. Instead we will try to focus on our diet or exercise routine and completely overlook the benefits of being able to de-stress and unwind while spending time in nature. It turns out that there is actually a scientific term for this relationship with nature and an evolutionary reason for it also.

New research supports the theory that our relationship with nature is a fundamental component of maintaining good health. The term for this is the “biophilia hypothesis”. This hypothesis suggests that there is an innate affiliation of human beings to other living organisms, both flora and fauna. Perhaps even an innate bond with nature in general.

As for the evolutionary aspect of our relationship with nature, many species of animals use habitat selection as a criteria for successful survival. Early Paleolithic humans were no different. They had a preference for living near water with an abundance of green foliage which would have indicated greater food availability, both in edible vegetation and herbivorous animals. The early humans that were able to settle in these types of environments would have gained a definite survival advantage. Because of this, it would have allowed early humans to relax more and recover from stress and fatigue by being in these restorative natural settings.

Since we humans have evolved and lived outdoors and amongst nature for the majority of the years of our specie's existence, the movement to a largely indoor environment has been a comparatively recent development for humans. As with our diet, our physical environment has changed drastically in a short amount of time. This has caused our relationship with nature to become quite often neglected due to modern life and technology. Along with this has also come many recent problems such as lack of exercise, obesity, depression and an increase in certain diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Many of these problems now effect the youth of society but also those of us who as adults spend many hours of our time in front of the computer or television.

In order to bring back the balance to our lives with nature and to help eliminate many of these problems there are some steps we can take that will fit in quite nicely with our modern lives. These simple steps will help to bring us both mental and physical benefits.

We can begin by skipping the gym and taking our exercise outside as often as possible whenever the weather permits it. Pet ownership is also important. The early humans found companion animals to be essential to their survival and they were common in hunter-gatherer societies. In our modern world, contact with animals has been shown to decrease risk of heart disease, lessen anxiety, and reduce depression. Lastly by bringing more plants into our indoor environments it has been shown to boost mood, improve air quality, and reduce anxiety and fatigue.

So as you can see there are ways to help us adjust better to modern life and at the same time decrease our chances of suffering from debilitating diseases, stress and depression. By returning to our natural affiliation with nature in simple but effective ways, we can be sure to increase the quality of our lives.

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