It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of families spending time together outdoor. Kids that spend time in nature are less stressed, have healthier immune systems, are more focused and creative, and have greater feelings of self fulfillment and social connectedness than kids that spend the majority of their time between four walls. And children naturally want to spend time in wild places. But nature isn’t just good for kids; being in nature is an integral part of what makes adults human, too.
Whether we embrace the outdoors or not, most of us intuitively know that nature is good for us. And there is now ample scientific evidence to back up this intuition. Research suggests that nature makes adults happier, healthier, and even more creative. We also now know that exposure to nature can promote healing, decrease depression, and improve overall psychological well-being. There are several theories circulating as to why nature has such a positive influence on our health, including the Psychoevolutionary Theory, the Attention Restoration Theory, and the theory that seems straight out of a sci-fi movie implicating a bacterium present in the soil.
As an eclectic Psychology PhD, I genuinely believe that all of these theories (and probably many more!) account for some of the positive benefits gained from time spent in wild places. However, as someone who photographs outdoor family weddings for a living, I have to ask one question that seems to be glaringly absent from the conversation. How might time in nature help us to forge and maintain a strong bond with the people we love? We are social animals and we evolved in natural spaces with other social animals. Nature must play a role in our socio-emotional lives and, specifically, in our close relationships. After all, a happier, healthier human is also more likely to be a better social partner and parent. So, in the spirit of answering this question, I’ve compiled a list of nine ways that being in nature can create the very best wedding day and strongest emotional footing possible when commencing life with your chosen person.
Top Reasons to Have an Outdoor Wedding
Reason 1: Nature reduces stress and anxiety.
Simply viewing natural scenes has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. However, getting out there in the thick of it has additional benefits. Think about how you feel after binge watching that new Netflix original. A little dazed? Perhaps, disoriented? Really anything but connected. Now think back to how you feel after a day spent in the forest, or kayaking on a body of water. Rejuvenated, clear-minded, recharged, right?
Though you dodge quite a bit of stress and anxiety by ditching the traditional wedding scene, life itself is a source of stress and anxiety. Do yourself a favor and reduce those on your wedding day by taking your love outdoors. And while you’re there, soak in all that beauty.
Reason 2: Nature facilitates trust, cooperation, and generosity.
Natural environments, by their very nature, may provide unexpected challenges. Coping with these challenges necessitates both communication and cooperation. And successfully meeting these challenges increases feelings of connectedness and our sense of trust. All of these elements are important in a healthy union, and the strengthening of the social bonds in your family.
In a way, nature helps us prepare for the challenges that inevitably occur in a marital relationship, not to mention the challenges that are prevalent during parenthood. Start your marriage off on the right foot by conquering a challenge together, and you’ll know that your partner has your back no matter what happens down the road. Being married and being a parent is a team sport. Consider hiking that mountain on your wedding day your very own spring training.
Reason 3: Nature increases closeness.
Nature increases positive emotions that are necessary for feelings of closeness, reducing the boundaries between self and other. Breaking down our emotional barriers allows us to let others in to share experiences more fully.
Reason 4: Nature slows time down and places us in the moment by heightening the senses.
Nature increases our calm alert state bringing us more fully into the moment. When we are in nature, we are engaging senses that are underused in our more modern, urban environments. While we do still engage the visual sense, we become more aware of sound and touch, as well. For instance, we become cognizant of the sound of wind rustling through the trees and, at the same time, we can feel it lightly touch our faces.
While these underused senses are engaged, the frontal lobe is deactivated. This deactivation allows for a kind of reset to take place. Our batteries recharge, and the attentive processes that are depleted in a complex urban environment are restored. Alpha waves increase that contribute to this calm, alert state. Essentially, nature makes us feel zen. Distractions are removed, giving us a chance to focus on each other and reconnect in a mindful way.
Reason 5: Nature increases our feelings of connection to a broader reality.
It’s harder to sweat the small stuff, the tiny hurts and emotional slights, when we’re taking in something so much bigger and more comprehensive than ourselves. We’ve all been there. Gazed at a distant mountain range and have felt that we are but a small part of something larger. Being in a state of awe on your wedding day is a pretty magical combination.
Reason 6: Nature influences the very, well, nature of our memories.
Having an experience in the outdoors makes for richer memories, exactly what you want for your wedding day. As a species, we now spend so much time inside that being outdoors has become a novelty, resulting in the creation of stronger memories. These rich memories correlate with more enduring love. So how does nature increase memory? Immersing oneself in nature decreases cortisol levels, which are known enemies to memory capacity. Cortisol is a stress hormone. So give yourself the gift of a stress-free wedding by having it outdoors with the people you love and who love you the most.
Reason 7: Being in nature results in faster emotional processing.
Our modern urban environments are filled with distractions that eat up our attention. We’re constantly receiving phone calls, fielding emails, and being bombarded by stimuli from all directions. Our brains have to deal with this and to do so, they start to filter out very subtle cues, even in important social relationships.
Nature has a remedy for this already hinted at above. A natural environment has far fewer distractions, and this allows us to reenter a state of calm, bringing us back into the moment. All those tiny signals that our partner gives us and that we send to them are more easily picked up on and interpreted in a natural environment. This, in turn, increases feelings of connectedness and understanding. Basically, you feel that you’re on the same wavelength. Emotional situations become that much more emotional and meaningful when you feel seen, heard, and understood so thoroughly. I can’t think of a more perfect scenario for a wedding day.
Reason 8: Nature as love potion number nine?
The soil contains a bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae, which in mice (and probably humans, too) results in the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter known to play a role in maintaining a positive mood and warding off depression. In nature we are also exposed to terpenes, the aroma emitting component of essential oils created by plants, flowers, and even some insects. Two major terpenes are limonene (a chemical found in citrus fruits) and linalools (found in flowers and spice plants and the primary compound responsible for scent in lavender). These natural fragrances can relax us and enhance mood, or even put us in the mood ;-).
Reason 9: Spending time in green spaces is as good for nature as it is for us.
When we develop a love for the outdoors, we are more invested in protecting these natural and wild pieces of the earth. We share this love with our children and they, too, grow up invested in protecting these same places. We are all more likely to take care of our planet, if we truly experience it.
It’s not surprising that there are so many benefits from experiencing nature. For most of our ancestral heritage, we were living there, right smack dab in the middle of it. The myriad of natural experiences that influenced us in our ancestral past have shaped our psychological world and, in turn, our ability to cultivate connections with other social beings. So get back to nature and take your intimacy to the next level.
Ready to plan your elopement in nature?