Spending Time Alone In Nature Can Boost Your Mental Health And Your Leadership Skills
As technology takes over our world and we feel more stressed out than ever before, many people are starting to lean into Mother Nature to reestablish their sense of calm, grounding and individual identity. But when you take this natural instinct one step further and adventure into the great outdoors solo, that’s when the magic really happens.
There are two major forces at play here on the human psyche: the importance of spending time among the natural elements and the importance of spending time alone. As a society, we’ve become notoriously horrible about doing both of these things. But they each have major advantages. And when you combine them, the benefits seem to double.
Spending time outside in nature is one of the easiest, most accessible and least expensive ways to heal your mind and body. Research suggests that it can help to boost your energy and short-term memory, reduce stress and inflammation, fight depression and anxiety, lower your blood pressure and help you focus. Even if you’re an urban dweller just wandering through your local park, that patch of grass and curated collection of trees is still doing you some good.
And knowing when to step away from the crowd and into solitude can help you in tremendous ways as well. While many confuse “being alone” with “loneliness,” this choice to spend some time solo is one of the best ways to reconnect with yourself and your values, enhance your creativity, reduce stress and depression, and — ironically — improve your relationships with others. Solitude opens up space in your mind to cultivate a true awareness of yourself and your surroundings, remaining present without distracting conversations or cell phone beeps pulling at your attention.
Now, let’s combine these two scenarios. A group of researchers based in North Carolina have spent two decades exploring how spending time alone in nature can impact us, using the outdoor learning and leadership nonprofit Outward Bound for its data pool. Over the years, researchers’ observations and survey-based findings have revealed that participants benefited from both the outdoor time, as well as the time spent solo.
They felt calmer, focused, less stress and more inspired, but there’s more to it than that. Spending a significant amount of time outdoors alone can present its fair share of challenges, like finding fresh water to drink and pitching a secure tent in the middle of a rainstorm. And thanks to these challenges, the participants noted that they also felt a sense of personal growth. They walked away from these experiences more confident in their problem-solving abilities, which easily translated to the other major parts of their lives — like work.
When it comes to being a good leader, you have to do more than work hard and meet expectations. People want to follow the person who has a clear understanding of who they are, who understands what’s truly important and who can embody both of these things with confidence on a daily basis. And amazingly enough, using your leisure time wisely can help you improve by leaps and bounds in each of these categories.
Seriously, just think of how much better our workplaces (and our world in general) would be if everyone just took more time to prioritize being outside and being alone. We’d truly be a force to be reckoned with.