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Did you know that just 2 hours a week spent in nature can help us feel healthier and significantly boost our sense of wellbeing? A 2019 study found that those who spent at least 120 minutes per week (2 hours total) surrounded by nature reported better health and wellbeing than those who did not. It is no secret that nature is good for us; various studies in recent years have proven that even short periods of time spent outside can significantly decrease feelings of stress, boost happiness, and inspire greater attention and creativity.
We rounded up some of our favorite more (and less) conventional ways to get the most of the outdoors.
Personally, being in nature has been a form of mental escape in times when I need clarity or inspiration. The past year spent indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made motivation harder to find, and caused stress to build up quickly in my mind. To alleviate those heavy feelings, I made it a habit last August to start biking around my neighborhood. I found that even a short 20-30 minute bike ride allowed me to breathe in the fresh air I craved while absorbing some much-needed vitamin D. I have maintained this habit and without fail, I always return from my bike rides feeling much lighter, and ready to return to my work with a refreshed and inspired mind.
120 minutes outside may sound daunting, but it’s completely doable — don’t worry! If you break it down, it comes out to just under 20 minutes a day to see great changes in your mental fitness and physical health. If you’re looking for some inspiration, here are 4 simple ways to spend some nourishing time in nature.
A natural way to incorporate outdoor time into your weekly routine is through exercise. For instance, if your current workout routine includes a mile on the treadmill, consider taking a walk or jog outside instead. If you’re like me and enjoy guided home workouts via YouTube, try taking your laptop outside and do your exercises in the grass. Taking your workout outside is an easy way to simultaneously nourish your body and your mind.
If you’re not really into the idea of getting active and sweaty, an outdoor picnic is perfect for you. This is great for people who live in urban areas as well, since all you really need is a patch of grass or a picnic table at a local park (urban picnic, anyone?). Any time I pick up a take-out meal, I like to challenge myself to go to a nearby park and eat outdoors rather than driving straight home. As an added bonus, if you spread out several blankets or towels 6 feet apart, an outdoor picnic works as a safe, socially-distanced way to connect with friends.
For those who want to tap into their creative side, how about trying nature photography? Take your phone and spend 20 minutes outside, photographing any beautiful piece of nature you come across. Maybe it’s the sunlight shining through the trees above you, the clouds in the sky, or even a flower blooming on the side of the road. Photographing nature is a perfect way to both immerse ourselves in the outdoors while pausing to appreciate the small beauties that are present in our environment. You might even find yourself a new hobby, or at least a new phone background!
If you live near a beach, consider giving back to the environment by walking along the shore and picking up microplastics. Microplastics are small pieces of marine plastic debris that can be harmful to the ocean and its aquatic life. Today, many beaches are covered in microplastics that wash up with the waves. If you decide to try this idea, remember to bring a bag to collect your microplastics in, and be careful when picking up pieces that are pointed or sharp (we recommend gloves). This activity is uplifting in more ways than one; not only will you feel soothed by the sound of the waves and the fresh saltwater air, but you will also feel great knowing that you are helping the environment stay clean and beautiful.
Spending time in nature seems so easy, yet we rarely do it enough! These are just a few ways to clock in those 2 weekly hours spent outdoors and reap the benefits for your health and mental fitness. Let us know if you try any of these ideas, or if you have any favorite, go-to outdoor activities.
By Alisha Churma