Coming around the corner on Highway 101, on the last leg of my trip from Utah to Oregon, I found myself in full view of the ocean for the first time in over 2 years. It literally took my breath away. It was the beginning of a week where I was nestled in a wooded campground that was right beside a gorgeous pathway that led us straight to the beach. Being raised in the Northwest and around the water, I felt like I was finally back home. I could literally feel my body beginning to relax and open up to the healing that nature always provides me. It was just what I needed and had been dreaming about after the long Pandemic winter.
One of the most powerful prescriptions for staying healthy can be right outside our door. While many of our usual go-to stress-reduction activities, like going to the gym or a social gathering, haven’t been as readily available for the past year, getting outside and reconnecting with our natural environment is something we can safely do to improve our immune system, reduce stress and improve our mood.
“Research suggests that mood disorders can be lifted by spending time outdoors.”
Access to Nature Has Been Found To:
- Improve Sleep
- Reduce Stress
- Increase Happiness / Mood
- Reduce Negative Emotions
- Promote Positive Social Interactions
- Reduce Blood Pressure
- Help us cope with Pain
- Reduce Tension
- Help generate a sense of meaning to life
Being in green environments boosts various aspects of thinking, including attention, memory, and creativity, in people both with and without depression. “ The evidence is very solid,” says psychologist Marc Beman at the University of Chicago.
The intersection of nature and health and its healing potential is one of the most promising new developments in medicine. We often refer to this phenomenon as the “nature pill.” It’s a prescription with many positive side effects. Have you ever felt refreshed after taking a walk through a forest, park, or garden? Or noticed you’re in a better mood after sitting by a lake or waterfall? These experiences in nature may feel like they are only in our heads, but research suggests that nature can physiologically help our brains and bodies to stay healthy and provide a source of deep healing.
We now live in a society where people spend more and more time indoors and online — especially children. The average American spends 93 percent of their life indoors. That’s only half of one day per week outdoors.
Activities We Can Do Outdoors:
- Take a walk in green space, such as a local park.
- Go for a bike ride with the family.
- Get creative. Draw or paint animals or nature scenes, or let them inspire a poem or song lyrics. If you enjoy writing in a journal, try doing this outside.
- Eat meals outdoors. Have a picnic in a local park, or work or sit in a garden. This might be something you could enjoy doing with other people.
- Watch the stars. Use a stargazing website, app, or book to help you recognize different stars or enjoy looking at the night sky. Give your eyes time to adjust, as it can take about 20 minutes before you can fully see stars in the dark.
- Use Photography outdoors as a creative outlet.
- Try exercising outside. Run or jog through a local park or do yoga outdoors. You could try it by yourself or look for classes in your local area.
For me personally, nature has changed my entire state of being. From throwing on a pair of tennis shoes in the morning for my daily walks around the park, to gardening from spring all the way through the autumn months, to taking any opportunity for camping & sleeping outdoors … nature is my favorite place to be. Spending this time outside, along with taking our weekly rides up the canyon to hang our hammocks along a stream for a few hours, has been my saving grace through the long pandemic months, helping to bring me back to a sense of calm and well-being.