Nature is the ultimate elixir. It rejuvenates, exhilarates, and calms us in equal measures. Whether it’s the woods, the mountains, or the beach (whatever vibe most suits you), many of us find solace in the outdoors — whether we’re introverts or extroverts.
However, speaking as an introvert, I’ve always found a special comfort in nature. It’s where I turn when I’m stressed or overwhelmed, as well as when I want to feel invigorated. Walking in a forest, hiking in the mountains, or bathing in the sea makes me feel connected to the world as a whole in a way I rarely feel with other people.
Spending time outside has well-documented benefits for everyone, but here are five reasons why it’s particularly beneficial for introverts.
Why Nature Brings Out the Best in Introverts
1. It gives us the space we need to process.
Typically, we need more time than extroverts to process our feelings and experiences. It’s often necessary for us to spend time “digesting” our thoughts before discussing them. This doesn’t mean we don’t want to share what we’re thinking. It just means at times it feels right and even easy to share, while other times the simple task of forming our ideas into coherent sentences seems… herculean.
The weird thing is that our reticence doesn’t just apply to the big things. Sometimes, even a well-intentioned, “How was your day?” can send an introvert’s mind spinning and alarm bells ringing. We want to give an honest answer, but if we’re still processing something ourselves, it can be difficult for us to verbalize straight away.
Taking a walk or sitting outdoors with a book or sketchpad gives introverts the space we need to let things settle in our mind. Sometimes this means actively mulling something over — but not always. For me, the simple lack of pressure to express myself prepares me to do so more clearly later on.
2. Science says so.
Countless studies have shown that spending time outside is extremely beneficial for both our mental and physical health. Interacting with nature:
- fights depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues
- lowers blood pressure
- reduces inflammation levels
- lowers cortisol, the “stress” hormone
- improves short-term memory
- improves vision by reducing the risk of developing nearsightedness
- improves focus and memory
In one study, researchers introduced variables that made it difficult for participants to focus on a task. They then instructed one group to take a walk in nature, a second group to walk through the city, and a third group to simply relax. When everyone returned, they were given a proofreading exercise. Can you guess which group scored the best? That’s right — the ones who spent time in nature.
Another study involved sending some students to a forest and some students to a city. Both groups spent two nights in their respective locations. When they returned, the students sent to the woods had lower levels of cortisol — the hormone that is often used as a marker for stress — than those who stayed in the city.
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Introverts can be more prone to stress, overwhelm, and mental health issues than extroverts. That’s why it’s even more important for us to get a healthy dose of sunshine and fresh air.
3. We get to step away and unplug.
There’s a lot of talk of unplugging these days — putting the phone or laptop away and engaging more holistically with what’s right in front of you. Being present with our surroundings helps us connect more deeply with the people we care about, as well as ourselves. Going outdoors gives us the perfect means of not only taking a break from technology, but also from the draining aspects of daily life.
Why is this especially important for us “quiet ones”? Due to the way we’re wired, we process and feel things deeply. That means we get more easily stressed and drained from stimulation than our extroverted counterparts. If you’ve ever mentally and physically crashed after attending a party, group project, or meeting at work, you know exactly what I mean.
The solution: avoid overscheduling and plan adequate time alone to recharge our “batteries.” This doesn’t have to — always — mean holing up at home. The revitalizing effects of doing something outside at your own pace, in the fresh air, can be pretty instantaneous. Although I’m often tempted to crash at home when I’m feeling extra-introvertey, putting on my shoes and getting out the door for a walk makes me feel much better, much sooner.
4. It inspires our creativity.
Not all introverts have a sensitive, artsy side, but many of us do. We enjoy hobbies — or careers — that involve writing, drawing, photography, or anything that allows us to express ourselves. When we create, we share a bit of our private inner world with the outside world — in a way that’s more comfortable than speaking up in a group.
Nature’s beauty has inspired countless artists. Whether it be a jaw-dropping landscape, or simply a pleasant outdoor park, the natural environment is the perfect backdrop to set the creative mind in motion.
5. It’s a great way to be out in the world.
Introverts are parodied as shy, sensitive types that hide themselves away at home watching Netflix or hanging with their cats. Okay, this might be true to a degree, but it’s in no way the whole picture. Introverts have just as much desire as extroverts to connect with others and discover what the world has to offer — we just do it differently.
We have no qualms about doing things alone, like traveling solo or heading out for a day by ourselves. We enjoy the freedom that comes with letting the day unfold as it may, knowing we don’t have to keep up constant conversation or worry about whether someone else is bored.
When it comes to socializing, introverts prefer hanging out one-to-one or in small groups. It’s easier for us to open up that way, and allows us to go deeper.
My absolute favorite thing to do with my boyfriend or best friend is to head outdoors for a walk somewhere in nature. I enjoy conversing in an environment with few distractions, and it feels great to be outside sharing the view — with just one other person.
Introvert, have you gotten outside lately? With spring upon us, now’s the time to head out the door and into the sunshine!