For centuries poets and other creative types have celebrated the invigorating rush that comes with time spent in untamed nature. There is something inherent to every person that craves to, every now and again, abandon the creature comforts of home and plunge headlong into the great outdoors.
Calm Is All Nature: Personal Development and the Great Outdoors
While romantics and artists attribute this primal yearning to some numinous, ineffable quality unique to nature and the human psyche, experts in the sciences and psychological fields have begun to unravel more concrete answers to mankind's love and, more importantly, need of the outdoors and its role in fostering creativity, personal development and self-actualization.
So, how does nature foster creativity, personal development and self-actualization, the fulfillment or realization of one's talents and potentialities?
3 Ways Nature Fosters Creativity and Drives Personal Development and Self-Actualization
1. Nature Heals the Body
A common adage holds that a sound mind requires a sound body. Creativity demands both and, given the many proven health benefits of spending time in nature, it's no wonder the two come hand-in-hand. While diet has its role in physical health, the body also derives numerous benefits from the environment. Consequently, creative individuals who deprive themselves of nature deny their bodies this vital component of physical health, thereby undermining any effort towards creativity and personal development.
The most obvious and also one of the most taken for granted component of physical health is exposure to natural sunlight. Natural sunlight is an essential source of Vitamin D. This crucial vitamin does everything from blood pressure regulation and bone strength to cancer prevention. Sadly, too few people spend time outdoors, making Vitamin D deficiency a common, almost universal condition in western countries.
Balanced Vitamin D levels aren't the only benefit of time spent in nature. Furthermore, exercise isn't even required because simply spending time outside offers other rewards. Breathing in fresh air supports the respiratory system in a way that stagnant indoor air simply cannot. Artificial lighting is associated with incidents of nearsightedness and can easily be prevented while enjoying sunlight vistas and landscapes.
2. Nature Enhances the Mind
Just as our muscles and tendons move our limbs, the mind functions as the "muscle" that propels us forward towards personal growth and development. While the concept of developing a robust and healthy mind immediately conjures images of time spent reading, writing, and other scholarly pursuits, careful inquiry has established that spending time in nature is just as important in fostering cognitive acuity and development.
There is a profound correlation between creative reasoning and time spent in nature, with research demonstrating a 50 percent improvement in problem-solving skills and critical thinking after a four-day immersive experience in the outdoors. This naturally lends itself towards personal development, as introspection is an essential part of growth.
3. Nature Revitalizes the Soul
While at first harder to quantify, one might view the constituents of the "soul" as happiness, relaxation, mental health, and other ephemeral but no less real or important components of a whole individual. With that as a definition, it has again been demonstrated that time spent in natural positively impacts tranquility and self-improvement.
In recent years, psychologists within the American Psychological Association and other prestigious organizations have worked to incorporate the mental health benefits of time spent in nature into a workable treatment paradigm and have met with profound success. Wilderness therapy enhances treatment in a way that the clinical, bulb-lit rooms of a psychologist's office simply cannot replicate.
Spending time outdoors is linked with increased serotonin production. This neurotransmitter, outside of its basic biological functions, is widely accepted to play a role in the brain's cultivation of well-being and happiness in the individual. Unlike psychiatric medications that control the release of serotonin, doing so through nature has no harmful side effects, apart from the occasional sunburn.
Moreover, spending time in nature is associated with a decrease in the risk of developing depression, allowing you to be creative. Personal development and creativity require a mind uninhibited by anxieties and other nervous preoccupations, so naturally, any behavior that limits negative emotional states creates the internal environment needed for growth and success.