Joy, appreciation, abundant, part of a larger purpose, calmness- these are some of the feelings that you may reflect on as you watch the sunset. Afterward, you may have realized that you felt happier or had mental clarity. Well, those feelings are real, studies have shown that watching the sunset does have a positive impact on your mental health.
In Italian, the word for sunset is, tramonte, which if you translate literally “tra” and “monte” it means “between mountains.” The sun is literally between two realms of the world for a few minutes every day. The sun is setting in one life and rising in another. It is a beautiful representation of how our life is larger than the one we are living each day. In this realization of beauty, you are in the moment alongside nature.
Environmental Psychology continues to hold studies and prove that people who are connected to nature (i.e., watching the sunset, hiking, admiring a scenic view, etc), have more positive emotions, better work performance, and heightened concentration. In addition, the more positive emotions a person experiences, the more likely they are to show kindness to others and are more generous, creating a prosocial community. Are you thinking there must be a caveat? Well, you must enjoy the outdoor event, feel safe, and truly find nature beautiful to reap the benefits!
Moreover, nature provides a moment of tranquility, a moment where we can be mindful of everything we are grateful for. This strengthens our appreciation for life which increases overall life satisfaction. As we make nature part of our lives and experience emotional wellbeing, we can handle stress better and cope in healthier ways. Nature provides a respite for our overactive minds and helps us slow down our perception of time.
Benefits for Seniors
Specifically, seniors who are more active outside have improved mental health, (i.e., reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety), improved mood, increased energy, and overall better health.
Stress can change how your nervous, endocrine and immune systems work. When humans are stressed or anxious, the body goes into fight or flight mode and emits the hormone cortisol; your heart rate and blood pressure go up as well. Since fight or flight mode is a biological response to danger, the body gets ready to use all its energy to either fight or run. Your body takes that energy from other bodily functions that in the acute moment are “non-essential,” for example digestion or your immune system. Even though, in the 21st century, we rarely get into a situation where we must fight or run, the body’s response to any type of stress is the same. BUT, the good thing is that while enjoying nature and being in the moment, stress can be decreased, and the output of cortisol will slow, putting the energy back to fueling all parts of the body.
Contact with natural light helps your body produce vitamin D and increases white blood cells. Vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium and phosphorus which is needed for healthy and strong bones/ teeth. While the boost of white blood cells increases immune response.
On average, seniors may need 600 IU- 800 IU of vitamin D, however getting a blood test at your next physical will determine exactly how much vitamin D your body needs if you are deficient.
All in all, there are physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits to enjoying nature. Enjoying nature does not have to be intense or rugged, but more importantly it should be an experience built into your week. Here are some simple ways to enjoy nature:
-Going to an area to watch the sunset
-Take your in-home workout outdoors! (Weight training, chair yoga, aerobic exercises)
-Sitting in the park and admiring nature or a scenic view
-Taking a scenic drive through nature
Written by Alessandra Nolfo