Why should it make a difference whether you dine in for lunch or leave the office, if it means walking to a local café or sitting at a nearby park? And why should it matter that you walk the long way now and then just to be outside a few moments longer? Or that instead of only hitting the gym, you work out outdoors now and then? Research reveals a strong link between our wellbeing and our time spent outdoors. We already knew fresh air is good for our health, but new studies stress the importance of connecting with our natural environment even more. Perhaps this is because most of us are so connected to technology these days (over 50% of you will read this article on a smartphone). Whether you live in a lush green setting or in a park-deprived urban area, finding ways to get your green is important to your wellbeing.
Sadly, the average person in the United States currently spends around 93% of their time indoors (87% in enclosed buildings and 6% in enclosed vehicles). Even if this statistic doesn’t apply to you, it’s worth looking into your lifestyle habits. With minimal effort you can reap significant benefits by making time for nature.
5 Ways Nature Makes You Better:
1/ It Uplifts. Research has shown that people are much happier doing the same tasks outdoors than they are doing the same thing inside. And when we’re feeling down, spending time in nature has been shown to improve the mood in over 90% of participants in some studies; in another, 71% experienced a mood boost just from taking a short walk in nature. We naturally connect nature with positive feelings and vitality.
2/ Lowers Stress. Even just 5-minutes outside has a mood-boosting effect, according to a study by Environmental Science & Technology journal. Light exercise will add to the positive effects, even just a casual walk or stretch. People who regularly spend time in green spaces produce lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who don’t. And if you work out outdoors, the benefits you receive are exponentially higher.
3/ Rejuvenates The Mind. Our brains don’t thrive on routine. To stay sharp we need to awaken our senses, and artificial environments don’t allow our minds to wander and imagine the way being outdoors does. Just by being outside and being stimulated by your natural surroundings, your senses become engaged and your ability to think clearly improves. Nature ignites our thinking process with a sense of ‘novelty and excitemen’, while improving our memory and our ability to concentrate, according to several studies.
4/ Inspires Kindness. Nature connects us. Research shows us that people who spend more time in green spaces report having stronger feelings of unity with others. In one study, where an MRI was used to measure brain activity, the parts of the brain associated with empathy and love lit up when participants simply viewed scenes of nature on a screen (versus images of urban environments, which inspired sensations of stress and fear in the brain). There’s something about nature that inspires a feeling of connection within us – both to our environment and to each other.
5/ Improves Immunity. Who knew that having a plant in your home could improve your physical health? In addition to increasing oxygen levels, plants increase our immunity and clean the air. And even in hospital rooms, as cliché as it sounds, bringing someone flowers has been said to be a “noninvasive, inexpensive, and effective complementary medicine for surgical patients”, according to several studies.
4 Ways to Sneak In Your Green: Getting your nature fix can be challenging when you live and work in an urban area. Here are a few ways to get your green in during a busy work day:
- Take lunch ‘to-go’ and eat outside at a neighboring park (15-20 min)
- Meet a friend for a quick coffee break on a park bench (10 min)
- Take the long way to a meeting because it means you’ll be on a calmer tree-lined street, rather than a heavily-trafficked one
- Walk to or from the office (even part of the way, avoiding busier roads)
Regardless of where you live and how you spend your days, the importance of connecting with the natural world is essential to your physical and emotional health. Make small adjustments to your daily life and experience the rewards for years to come.
* Song to Get You Out The Door: “Go Outside”
“Go Outside” by Cults. (Now go out there and get your green!)
“5 Reasons To Spend More Time Outside (Even When It’s Cold)”: http://goo.gl/dnVfrA
“Why Getting Outside Is So Good For You”: http://goo.gl/PTJvSu
“Why You Need To Spend More Time in Nature”: http://goo.gl/Y6JscC
“New Methods for Assessing The Fascinating Nature of Nature Experiences”: http://goo.gl/fQRiw0
“How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing?“: http://goo.gl/umU2iN