For many people, nature is their happy place. But what if I told you most people have specific happy places in nature, also known as comfort nature spots? Comfort nature refers to a place in nature where you feel connected. Oftentimes, going there is a form of self care and a way to improve your mood.
Comfort nature places can be based on nostalgia, where you can do your favorite nature activities, or natural settings where you innately feel calm.
What are the benefits of comfort nature places?
Visiting your comfort nature can be a healthy, mindful way to deal with negative emotions and bad life circumstances.
A systematic meta analysis of over 143 studies from 2019 found a variety of health benefits from spending quality time in nature, such as:
- Improved mood
- Decreased cortisol levels
- Lower risk of chronic illness
- More peace of mind
- Increased cognitive processes
When you know (and cook) your favorite healthy foods, you’re more likely to stick to healthy eating habits. Similarly, if you are aware of your comfort nature place(s), you can spend more time in nature and reap the many benefits of nature.
Next time you feel stressed, have had a bad day, or are in a rut, head to your comfort nature place instead of grabbing for chocolate or binging Netflix.
And the best part? You can have more than one nature place. There isn’t one true comfort nature, but many places where you can feel at home. Knowing all of them gives you options the next time you want to escape into nature.
If you’re unsure what your comfort nature places are, I’ve developed a free quiz to help you discover your comfort nature places.
Most likely, your comfort nature places will be a combination of blue spaces and green spaces, both of which have their own unique benefits.
Blue spaces can include both coastal and intercoastal blue spaces. Chances are at least one blue space is in your comfort nature places if you enjoy swimming, visiting lakes, or going to the ocean.
A 2018 study, aimed at addressing the gap between our growing interest in the therapeutic uses of water and the lack of evidence-based studies on it, found that blue care can have “direct benefit for health, especially mental health and psycho-social wellbeing.” The study also suggested that blue care interventions fostered greater social connectedness, another key component of mental wellbeing.
And the benefits weren’t just found in that study. A 2020 meta analysis of over 30 studies found blue space had benefits for physical health, mental health, and psychosocial health. In particular, this study stressed the importance of blue space for feeling connected to a community and for improving overall mental health.
The ocean has even more benefits, which I highlighted (and filmed!) on a recent beach trip:
Next time you’re feeling disconnected from those around you or isolated, make plans for a walk near blue space–or even a swim and some surf therapy if weather permits.
Green space, on the other hand, is anywhere with lots of green plants. Think forests, mountains, and even parks.
A 2021 meta analysis of past studies on the health benefits of green space found that green space had great cognitive health benefits. These benefits included enhanced cognitive ability and even decreased chances of Alzheimier’s disease!
Forest bathing, immersing oneself in nature with all five senses, has added health benefits. Just a few of the health benefits of forest bathing are boosted immune system functioning, reduced blood pressure, reduced stress and anxiety, improved mood, increased ability to focus (even in children with ADHD), accelerated recovery from surgery or illness, increased energy level, and improved sleep.
However, you don’t need to forest bath or even leave your city to experience the health benefits of green spaces. Public parks are in the majority of towns and cities across the world and count as green space too!
A 2021 study looked at a trial in Singapore where doctors gave park prescriptions to patients with certain health conditions. These patients had to work out in public parks for a certain amount of time in order to reap the physical and mental health benefits of exposure to nature and physical activity.
Next time you feel stressed or want to improve your mood, consider venturing to a nearby park or trail.
Disconnecting From Technology
Digital distractions have become one of the biggest stressors in the 21st century and many people today suffer from digital addiction, despite the adverse mental health effects of spending a lot of time in front of screens.
While it is not safe in many regions of the world to be participating in many social activities, that doesn’t mean you have to feel disconnected or isolated.
Nature can make us feel more connected and less lonely, whether we experience it on our own or with others. A 2021 study from Austria looked at the emotional well-being of citizens in lockdown. They found those with better moods spent more time in nature while those who experienced great levels of loneliness had a higher screen time and spent less time in nature.
Next time you feel lonely or disconnected from those around you, plan a trip to your comfort nature place instead of scrolling TikTok.
Bringing Nature To Your House
So often when I tell people about comfort nature places, they say, “John, that’s great but I leave in a concrete apartment building.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t experience comfort nature as well!
There are many ways to green the indoors, or bring nature into your house. Some of my favorite ways to green the indoors include:
- Taking care of houseplants
- Incorporating natural colors to your interior design, especially green and blue
- Improving the air quality in your home
- Considering green architecture practices
It might even be possible to bring your comfort nature places into your home! For example, if you like the mountains but live in a flat area, such as Chicago, you can frame photographs from your recent trip to Colorado and hang them up around your home.
Still unsure what your nature places are but sold on the benefits? Take my free quiz to learn where in nature is your happy place. After you take the quiz, you will also get my weekly email with tips on how to live a happier, healthier life with nature.