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Does Being in Nature Really Make You Healthier?
When was the last time you stood outside in the rain? Got mud on your bare feet? Watched the dappled light through the treetops? Plunged into the ocean? Or took a walk outside—without your phone? Can you even remember?
Here in the United States, the average person spends 93 percent of their time indoors. Yikes. Thanks to Netflix, Amazon, and a million other modern conveniences, we’ve become an indoor culture—and unfortunately, it’s not great for our health. Whether we consciously realize it or not, our bodies are starving for being in nature..
By analyzing people’s saliva, blood, and brain activity (pre-nature and post-nature), scientists can see that spending time in nature makes you calmer, happier, more energized, and gives you a clearer mind. Dopamine (a mood-boosting chemical) goes up. Cortisol (stress hormone) levels go down. Immune function increases. And scores for depression, fatigue, anxiety, and confusion decrease as well. Bottom line: Being in nature is powerful medicine!
I can personally vouch for nature’s healing properties, especially over the last year when we were more confined to our homes than ever before.
After grinding away at my desk for several hours, my energy plummets, and my brain just feels “off.” When I head outside with my pups and walk beneath the trees for thirty minutes or so, I notice a huge shift in my entire being. I return to my desk and literally feel like a different person.
Okay, but what if you live in the middle of a concrete jungle with no trees nearby? Or what if your career is incredibly demanding, leaving very little time for a leisurely stroll through the park?
Even if your schedule is overwhelmingly busy, you can still bring nature back into your life.
How to Add Being in Nature to Your Daily Life
Skip Netflix one night of the week. Go outside and get your nature fix instead. Do this weekly—and that’s 52-plus extra hours of nature time every year. It adds up!
Schedule walk-and-talk meetings with colleagues instead of meeting indoors. Good for your body—and good for business, too. With all that extra dopamine flowing, your brains will be sharper and more creative.
More of a night owl? Find a stargazing club in your city. There are hundreds listed on MeetUp with over 100,000 members around the country.
Join a virtual walking club like 99 Walks for extra motivation and accountability.
For your next vacation, skip the usual hotel vibes and try glamping (a portmanteau of “glamorous” and “camping”) instead—it’s like camping but a little less rugged and a little more glam.
At least once a year, take a long weekend, unplug, and completely immerse yourself in nature. Hiking, camping, rafting, whatever you love to do. Leave all the digital devices at home. Research shows that three days in nature can “reboot” your brain.
Although it’s not quite the same as going outside, fill your home with potted plants. Bring nature to you!
Make a brisk outdoor walk part of your routine. My daily walk is one of my non-negotiables—a mandatory part of my self-care routine that never gets skipped.
Before today is over, step outside and saturate yourself with nature’s healing powers. Even ten minutes can make such a difference. It’s cheaper than therapy. There’s no hangover. And nature’s pharmacy is open and available 24/7—right on the other side of the door.
Wander outside. Breathe deeply. Soak it in. And notice how much better you already feel!
Fall foilage photographs courtesy of Charlotte Bell
Reprinted with permission from EliseMuseles.com
Elise Museles is a certified eating psychology and nutrition ex- pert, creator of the Food Story Method and platform, and host of the popular podcast Once Upon a Food Story. As an author, speaker, and mind-body eating coach, Elise’s mission is to empower people to create a healthier relationship with food and their bodies by changing what’s on their plate—and what’s in their minds. For more, visit elisemuseles.com or check out her new book Food Story: Rewrite the Way You Eat, Think, and Live.