Feeling kind of blah? When was the last time you spent some time outside and really took it in – the scents, the sounds and the wonder of nature? While many of us intuitively know that spending time in nature is good for us, research now supports this notion. Studies have revealed a variety of positive health outcomes associated with exposure to nature such as decreased cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, decreased resting heart rate, decreased blood pressure, an increase in anti-cancer proteins, increased white and red blood cells, and increased Vitamin D levels. No wonder it feels good to spend time outdoors!
Of all of the forms of self-care and stress management, my personal favorite is eco-therapy, a method of restoring optimal health and wellbeing through routine exposure to and experience in the natural world. Put more directly, eco-therapy tells us to step away from the computer and go outside! Modern technology has led to an affliction dubbed Nature Deficit Disorder, where people don’t get outside enough and lose touch with the natural world. Sadly, our attachment to screens of all kinds (televisions, tablets, computers, smart phones) has taken us further away from the very thing that can help us replenish our energy and achieve inner peace – nature.
Spending time outside is also a way to create balance a term I use to illustrate that balance is something we have control over. When you spend a lot of time indoors, this must be balanced with outdoor time. It’s up to you to create that balance by finding ways to spend time outside. You can take a walk in the woods or just take a walk around the block. You’ll increase the likelihood of spending time outdoors if you take the time to identify outdoor destinations near you that you enjoy. This may require some exploring on your part, but you’ll be earning nature points as you explore the possibilities around you.
By establishing nature routines – such as a daily walk or a weekly trip to a local park – you are creating balance in your life, ensuring you’re keeping the indoor:outdoor ratio at a healthier level. Nature points – a motivational method of tracking time you spend in nature – can help to build and maintain momentum with a nature therapy routine.
Here are some ideas for getting outside and engaging with the natural world:
Want to relax? Go for a long walk on a Saturday morning, go camping, do some light yoga stretches in the backyard or at a local park, watch the sunset or stargaze.
Have a camera? Grab it and head outdoors. Looking for things to photograph is a great way to engage with nature.
Looking for a new hobby? Make it something you can do outdoors like gardening, bird watching, photography, hiking, camping or fishing.
Ready for a new fitness program? Skip the gym and head outdoors for walking, trail running, snowshoeing, bike riding, hiking, canoeing or kayaking.
Love animals? Walk your dog, go horse riding, volunteer at a working farm, volunteer to walk dogs for shelters or elderly neighbors.
There are many, many ways to enjoy more time outdoors in nature. Find something you love and make it part of your nature therapy routine.
Photo credit: unsplash.com/@gallarotti