Throughout the centuries, humans have found solace in the outdoors. Nature has inspired the works of great artists and writers, such as Keats, Millais, and Turner. These artists saw in nature what we still see today—a safe haven and an opportunity to escape the chaos of the city.
But what is it about nature that makes us feel good—whether we’re Introverts or Extraverts?
Nature makes everyone happy
Scientists have been curious about the effects of nature on humans for a long time. And their studies all point to the same conclusion: nature makes everyone feel at ease.
We find a possible explanation to this phenomenon in the evolutionary theory of biologist E.O. Wilson. According to Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis, humans seek out the outdoors because it’s the place where our species could once find food, shelter and comfort. These things are essential to our survival and we are, therefore, innately drawn to them.
Recent studies go beyond this notion and reveal how nature positively affects our mood, by reducing stress levels, thus contributing to our general well-being,
But it’s especially relaxing for Introverts
As an Introvert myself, I was always drawn to the outdoors. I turn to nature when I’m feeling stressed, frustrated or in need of some peace and quiet. Laying down on the grass, or running along the beach makes me feel connected in a way I rarely feel around other people.
I used to think I was the only one who felt this way, until I discovered this feeling is shared by most Introverts. Introverts need time to recharge and nature allows us to do so. The outdoors offers a safe space we usually can’t find when there are too many stimuli around us.
So, while spending time outside has benefits for everyone, it can be particularly valuable for solitude-loving Introverts. Here are five reasons why Introverts enjoy being around nature.
The Introverted brain is more responsive to dopamine—the neurotransmitter which regulates pleasure. This means we need less dopamine than Extraverts do. If we get too much of it, we can get overstimulated.
Social interactions like an office meeting or attending a party can quickly drain us. After this type of activity, we need some time alone to process our feelings.
Solitude, or aloneness, is key for Introverts, because it is how we recover from overstimulation.
Taking a walk outside is then perfect for Introverts, because it gives us the space we need to let our mind settle. After a forest bathing, we can come back to our busy lives feeling rejuvenated.
Stress is a common experience for many and in extreme doses can lead to adverse consequences, both physical and mental. Learning how to deal with stress is particularly important for Introverts. Why? Because arguably, we are more likely than Extraverts to develop mental health issues. Medical professionals argue that Introverts have higher chances of developing depression and even present a heightened suicide risk.
So, how’s nature the solution? Well, it can be the perfect medicine for when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Something as simple as a quick 15 minute-walk in the woods can reduce cortisol levels—the hormone responsible for stress.
When it comes to cognitive performance, Introverts and Extraverts operate differently. As an Introvert myself, I can confirm that I am my most productive when I’m in a noiseless environment.
During my time as a college intern, I had a co-worker who listened to music without headphones on. Every day he sat at his desk and turned the speakers' volume up, as if noise was the most natural thing in the world.
This used to drive me crazy. Eventually, I let him know that I couldn’t work with his music as it was too distracting.
For Introverts, these stressful situations can occur at any time and nature might be the fix. Scientific studies confirm that spending time outside can enhance cognitive performance—making the outdoors the perfect retreat for an Introvert's sensitive and overactive mind. So, next time you are feeling unfocused, go for a walk!
It’s common for Introverts to have creative outlets or hobbies such as writing, painting, music or photography. For me, I always found it easier to express myself through the written word. At school, it was terrifying to imagine the possibility of an oral exam instead of a regular written one. This creative craving might occur because of our introspection and deep-thinking abilities.
Nature’s beauty has inspired various artists, and it can boost your creativity too. Away from the chaos of the world, the natural environment is the perfect setting to let your creative mind wander.
Last resource: bring the outdoors inside!
You might be thinking: “this is all well and good, but what if I can’t (or don't want to) go outside?” Fair enough. As an Introvert, I understand how is sometimes better to stay at home reading, instead of going out.
Good news for you Introvert: you can enjoy nature's positive effects from the comfort of your home. How? I’ll give you an example.
Fall is my favorite season. I think this a common thing among Introverts. After all, the rainy weather gives us the perfect excuse to avoid social interactions. Hearing the rain dropping outside and the wind swirling is one of my favorite things. I find it incredibly peaceful. When I'm working, it helps me to feel focused and calm.
Whenever it is not raining, I can still recreate this fall setting. I simply search for playlists with rain sounds on Youtube. And you know what I found? It has the same effect, as if it was really raining.
It's not just me talking though. In a recent study, researchers used an MRI scanner to measure brain activity in people as they listened to recorded nature sounds. The results were fascinating.
In general, nature sounds revealed an increase in the parasympathetic response—that’s the one that helps the body relax and function in regular circumstances. This means that, even if you don’t want to go outside, you can listen to recorded nature sounds and create a peaceful atmosphere at home.
Have you gotten outside lately?
Spending time around nature can help you recover from stressful everyday activities, especially if you are an Introvert. So, put your phone down for a bit and go explore the great outdoors!