Did you know we all have an innate need for nature? Well, that is the hypothesis of Harvard naturalist Dr. Edward O. Wilson. He even popularized a term for it, biophilia. It may sound like some kind of disease, but it’s actually a good thing, and something many of us who take advantage of our local parks and open spaces can attest to. If you’re looking for awe-inspiring preserves that will boost your mood, check out several of my favorites below!
Studies have shown that being in nature, or even just looking at photos or videos of nature, reduces the effects of stress in our bodies — how cool is that? The feelings of awe, wonder and reverence that nature can inspire have also been proven to have positive benefits on our well-being including promoting altruism, health and humility. There is even a study that found that viewing nature (in that case as paintings) triggers reward circuits that give us a sense of purpose, joy and energy to pursue goals. (See What Happens when we Reconnect with Nature, Greater Good Magazine for more examples).
Enjoy the soothing sights and sounds of the South Bay in these nature clips, featuring birdsong, rushing water and grasses swaying in the breeze:
Of course, getting out into nature and getting some exercise at the same time is also incredibly good for you. Did you know regular exercise — including walking on your local trails — can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, improve mood and cognitive function and generally reduce mortality? Well, it’s true, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. It can also help reduce osteoporosis and releases endorphins that can help you feel happy and relaxed, improve your sleep and sharpen your mind. This positive effect is the same across most demographics including age, income, physical ability and living situation, whether urban or rural. All that from a walk in the woods, grasslands or along the beach!
One of the interesting things about biophilia is that you don’t have to go on a three-day camping trip or even a three-hour hike to get results (although we at POST certainly encourage both of those opportunities as well). Getting outside in a natural setting is what’s important (and taking your earbuds out so you can hear the quiet and the critters). Spending time in your backyard, sitting on a garden bench or watching a butterfly count as natural encounters, as does a walk in your neighborhood to see the spring flowers or fall leaves!
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 87,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more