When we need a stress-reliever, mood-booster, or general pick-me-up, one place that nearly always does the trick is the outdoors. Why does nothing relax us like serenity in the woods or on the ranch? Why does a natural breeze make you genuinely feel better than central air? Is it just coincidence?
Psychologists began to explore the idea of nature as therapy hundreds of years ago. Mental health hospitals and therapeutic institutions made sure to surround their grounds with as much of Mother Earth as possible because of the positive benefits for the patients. Fast-forward to present day and not much has changed. Psychologists at the University of British Columbia conducted research that shows this improvement in mood and mental well-being stems from nature being a break away from the attention-draining lives we currently live. They also tie this idea back to the biophilia hypothesis, which is a fancy way of saying humans, as a product of nature, have an innate desire to be connected with it. When we connect with nature we connect with ourselves, and that’s good for our mental health.
The most encouraging part is that scientific studies have shown that spending as little as five minutes a day in nature can improve our mood. For Americans in larger cities, location can often present as big of a challenge as time, but you shouldn’t give up on connecting with nature because of your downtown location, long hours, or demanding family life. Instead, find ways to bring nature into your day.
Here are five ways you can fulfill your human desire for the outdoors without throwing off your day:
- TAKE A TASK OUTSIDE
Pick a task on your to do list that doesn’t require you to be inside and take it outdoors. Whether that’s taking a phone call at the park, eating on the patio, or walking to get your morning cup of coffee, spending these few minutes outside can refresh and energize you for the rest of your day.
- TAKE A DAILY WALK
Not only is it good for your physical health and any four-legged companion you might have, but spending 20 minutes walking through your neighborhood in the evening relieves you of the day’s stress and gives you a moment of clarity to connect with yourself.
- BRING THE OUTDOORS INSIDE
There’s two main rules of any indoor space; four walls and a ceiling. If that criteria is met, you’re free to incorporate as much of the outdoors as possible. Opening your curtains and windows, nurturing house plants, and decorating with nature/landscape art are a few of many ways to bring the outdoors in and give you the mood boost you need.
- MOVE YOUR WORKOUT OUTSIDE
Exercise is good for your mental health, so why do it somewhere that’s not? Trade in the treadmill and electric fan for the outdoors and a natural breeze. Plus, even when it isn’t the greatest weather, you can feel more of an accomplishment for overcoming the elements.
- NATURE & CHILL
Research by the BBC and the University of California show that watching nature documentaries offers much of the same benefits as actually being outdoors. While you may not receive the same feeling, viewing these programs helps relieve stress and improve your mood when you’re stuck indoors.
Have other ideas on what can be done to get more outdoors in your life? Drop us a note and let us know how you make nature a part of your daily life.