Looking for a prescription to de-stress and gain some energy? Try a daily dose of the great outdoors. Research says Vitamin N (N, as in Nature) can boost your energy and improve your physical and mental health.
The surprising truth though, is that according to the Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology as surveyed in 44 U.S. cities, Americans only spend 2 percent of their time outdoors, 6 percent in transit, and 92 percent of their time indoors. Yes, you heard that correctly: Americans spend only 2 percent of their time outdoors.
This is kind of horrifying to me, considering that studies also show that:
- Us humans genuinely enjoy being outside, and
- It’s good for us!
Time spent outdoors has been found to offer many health benefits, including (but not limited to):
- Increased energy levels
- Improved concentration
- Decreased levels of stress and depression
- Improved physical and mental health
- Increased levels of vitamin D (associated with fighting a host of health conditions)
- A quieter mind
In fact, according to the University of Rochester, studies suggest that 90 percent of people experience increased energy just by participating in activities outside. Not to mention the social interactions, physical exercise, and childlike fun that adds to the rewards you’ll likely reap from spending time outside.
Research and health benefits aside, there is nothing quite like the feeling you experience when you finish a hike, a walk on the beach, a dip in the ocean, a climb up a tree, or a weekend in nature. The fresh air, the physical movement, the elements touching your senses—it’s invigorating on all levels—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Despite the fact that it’s good for us and most of us will admit that we enjoy spending time outside, on the whole, we don’t prioritize it. Whether it’s fear of too much UV exposure, poor air quality, allergies, caution against ticks, mosquitoes and other creepy crawlies, or just plain laziness, we confine ourselves to concrete, asphalt, and the couch far more often than we smear on the sunscreen and head outside.
But if you want to reap the physical and mental benefits of spending time in nature, you’ve got to step outside. Plus, you will likely find some beautiful Instagram moments along the way.
Here are six ways to fit your nature quota into your routine.
Take a Daily Walk or Run Outdoors
We all know exercise is good for us. Sometimes it’s just easier to head to the gym and keep your workout routine weather-proofed. But as much as you’re able, skip the treadmill and hit the pavement, instead. Weaving your exercise routine into your outdoors quota will help you meet a double whammy on your to-do list.
You can also try a walking meditation practice to get your dose of mindfulness, exercise, and outdoors all in one.
Hit the Hammock
My landlord calls my house hammock city, because I have a hammock on my porch, one in my backyard, and another in my front yard. I realized years ago that the thing I looked for on every trip was a place to stay that had a hammock for relaxing. So I decided to infuse that sense of vacation into my life at home, too.
Find a space on your porch, patio, or in the yard for a new hammock. If you don’t have space in your yard, consider getting a travel hammock, like this one. With a travel hammock, you can take it with you to the park, on your camping trip, or if you have a small patio or yard where you need the space when you’re not in your hammock, you can just hang it when you want to use it and store it when you don’t.
Read a book, snuggle with a loved one, or take a nap while you’re getting that fresh air. The hammock habit will not disappoint.
Plan a Weekend Getaway in Nature
If you are fortunate enough to live in a place accessible to good camping, a weekend camping trip is the way to go. Pack your gear, the kids, pets, and outdoor games into the car and spend the whole weekend outside.
Without a TV, video games, and other indoor distractions, you remain in the wild for the whole weekend—to experience the sounds and sensations of nature while you sleep, eat, play, and even pee.
Vitamin N + Vitamin M (Nature + Mindfulness) = a recipe for a quiet mind. Head to the beach, a park, your backyard, or any spot outdoors that’s quiet and has some shade. Sit comfortably, take a few cleansing breaths, and tune into the surroundings. If you are in a park, at the ocean, on a mountaintop or in any location that has real natural beauty, start with your eyes open. Take in the nature through your eyes in detail—the colors, the landscape, the flowers or other pieces of nature that inspire feelings of beauty.
Then close your eyes and tune into the sensations in the body. Notice the temperature, the sun as it warms you up, and the wind gliding over your face or body. Then bring your awareness to any sounds of nature around you—birds, animals, laughter, trees, waves. Take it all in through your ears, honing in on nature’s music.
Then tune into your sense of smell, identifying any scents your environment may offer. Salt air, flowers, food, a crispness …
End by bringing focus to your breath while enjoying the fresh air.
Schedule Walk and Talks
If you are bogged down with meetings in conference rooms, see if you can schedule your 1:1 meetings for a walk. Sometimes referred to as “walk and talks,” research has found that walking meetings can result in more productive, honest, and creative conversations between employees. In fact, surveys found that those who participated in walking meetings are 8.5 percent more engaged in their work than employees who didn’t walk and talk.
Just be sure to plan ahead to make sure you have your walking shoes hiding under your desk.
Head to a Park
Grab the frisbee, your yoga mat, the soccer ball, and a picnic spread—a park outing is something the whole family can enjoy. If you have a dog, check out your local community listings for dog-friendly parks (or beaches) near you.
“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.”
~Henry David Thoreau