The health benefits of enjoying nature

When you clock out of work for the day, you may be leaving behind stress for a walk in the park, a barbeque on your deck or to relax in a hammock in your backyard. Suddenly, you feel calm and refreshed from your day. There’s a reason for this. 

Research shows that being surrounded by nature may improve your health and wellness. In one study, meditative walking in a forest was shown to have more positive psychological effects than walking in an enclosed, indoor space. Evidence also points to lower frustration and a more meditative state when you’re active in green space versus commercial areas. 

Nature also has been shown to have an almost immediate effect on stress, reducing levels within minutes and bringing a positive response after visual exposure to trees, grass and flowers. Some studies even suggest that physical activity in nature can help remedy mild depression

The best news is, you don’t have to travel somewhere luxurious to reap these benefits. A study found spending at least two hours a week in green space, like parks and walking trails, promotes better health and well-being. It didn’t matter how, or where people got in their 120 minutes of nature — frequent short walks throughout the week were equally as effective as longer hikes at a park on the weekend.

Here are some tips on how to rack up your two-hour’s worth of nature

  1. Plant a garden in your backyard. Maintaining it will keep you outside. 
  2. Get your morning workout in by riding your bike to work. 
  3. Throw some sandwiches and fruit into a picnic basket for lunch in the park. 
  4. Find a free outdoor fitness class.
  5. If you have a pet, set aside 15 minutes for a routine walk outside each day. It’s good for both of you. 

If you can’t get outdoors, you can still get some of the benefits by viewing nature through the window. It may help restore the mind from mental fatigue, often associated with sustained focus on school projects or work tasks. Even having a view of green space has been shown to contribute to higher productivity in the workplace, fewer illnesses and higher job satisfaction, due to nature’s positive sensory inputs that may help restore the mind. 

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