Nature experiences can help to find a way back to normality after months in the shadow of the pandemic. Shut-downs, isolation and working from home have caused stress and anxiety for many but there is a way out. Research shows that spending time in nature lowers stress levels – one of the many benefits of outdoor holidays for both mental and physical health.
In Sweden, where 70 percent of the country is covered with forest, nature is easy to reach. Visitors find open landscapes with fields and meadows, virgin forests, quiet lakes, miles of coastlines, and thousands of islands. For inspiration, Visit Sweden presents 15 unique nature experiences and accommodations in the country’s most fascinating natural surroundings.
For a long time, people have sought mental well-being in nature. We know, according to research, that there are several benefits to staying outdoors, such as reduced negative emotions and lowered stress levels. The positive effects were tested and proven through Visit Sweden’s very own initiative, “The 72 Hour Cabin” (link), with participants from major cities who had demanding jobs. They were examined before and after spending three consecutive days in the Swedish countryside where they slept in glass cabins next to water.
Nature experiences are an effective way to find a way back to a new normality after months of pandemic-related stress, anxiety, and loneliness. Besides, outdoor tourism in small groups is safer than culture trips to cities. And even those who don’t feel like traveling right now can reap the benefits of Mother Nature as studies suggest that even looking at images or videos of natural environments provide similar positive effects.
More than two-thirds of Sweden is covered with trees, and it is not only the sparsely populated North that boasts lush wilderness: Cities throughout the country have lakes, meadows, forests, scenic coastal paths, and vast archipelagos around the corner, which makes nature easy to reach wherever you go.
No wonder Swedes maintain an unusually close relationship to nature and draw from the healing power of spending time al fresco. In several places around the country, experts offer nature experiences that foster mental health: Outdoor cooking, hiking, canoeing, and mountain biking are classic activities with a lasting effect.
“Natural environments are an important resource for meeting the health challenges in our society. Research shows that time spent outdoors reduces negative emotions and stress, and promotes positive emotions, mental recovery, and performance,” says Cecilia Stenfors, a researcher at the Aging Research Center at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, and the University of Chicago, USA.
And the list goes on: Whoever takes the step out into the green does himself a favor by lowering blood pressure, cortisol, and heart rate, according to a meta-analysis from the University of East Anglia, published in Environmental Research.