5 Ways To Get Your Nature Fix

By Jessica Migala |

Spending time outside is a boon for your mental and physical health. Here’s how to take advantage of all nature has to offer.

How to get the health benefits of nature

If doctors could write a prescription for nature, it would be this: Spend at least 120 minutes per week outside.

A study in Scientific Reports concluded that two hours weekly spent in nature was associated with better health and wellbeing compared to people who avoided natural spaces. This can be done in one long walk around a park or broken up into smaller daily walks.

“We all have the capacity to make a concerted effort to get outside and experience the positive changes to your health and wellbeing,” says Lincoln Larson, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Natural Resources at North Carolina State University.

In one review of 143 studies, outdoor exposure was associated with better blood pressure, a lower heart rate, and reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according to the journal Environmental Research in 2018. Together, the research found, nature time can help decrease your risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and early mortality.

Not sure how to incorporate more nature into your day? Try these expert-recommended strategies to get out there—even on a rainy day.

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Sign Up for a Walking Group

Walking outdoors combines the benefits of nature and cardio exercise. And if you do it with friends, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

“You’re more motivated to do something when it involves social connection,” says Kathleen Wolf, Ph.D., a retired research social scientist with the University of Washington.

You can plan a weekly walking date with a friend or spouse or look for walking clubs in your area. Chances are you’ll learn a lot from the people you walk with.

“One of my friends walks with a group and whenever I see her, she tells me all about everything she learned from chatting with other folks,” says Wolf.

You might learn about anything from where to find discounts on your favorite foods to space exploration: “So many things come up in conversation when walking,” she says.

Try Forest Bathing

Forest bathing is more than just walking through the woods. It’s a wellness practice that involves totally immersing yourself in nature. You might take a deep breath, smell the wet leaves on the ground, feel the breeze on your skin, and listen to the sounds of birds or a nearby stream.

The idea is to use all your senses to take in the scenery. “This is not quite meditation, but the act of forest bathing is quite contemplative,” says Wolf. She suggests turning off your phone to block out distractions.

People with limited mobility can enjoy forest bathing, too. It’s easy to trip over roots or rocks along traditional hiking trails. Look into paved trails in your neighborhood or surrounding communities. These paths allow people in wheelchairs to move through the forest, too. Or you could go for a slow drive through a nature preserve.

Find a forest bathing guide in your area at Forestbathingfinder.com or look for guided forest bathing walks with your area botanic garden, arboretum, or conservatory. Or visit any local forest and become one with nature.

Recommended reading: 7 Fun Things to Do Alone

Prepare for the Weather

One of the roadblocks to spending more time in nature? The weather doesn’t always cooperate. It can be rainy or too cold — and now, you don’t want to go outside at all.

Wolf recommends purchasing gear and clothing that will help you be comfortable and safe outside. “You can find good, weatherized clothing for quite affordable prices at big box or discount stores,” she says.

On these days, you may not need to go far from home, either. Think about what you can do around you safely, such as taking a brief walk around the block in your neighborhood when it’s drizzling or going on a short scenic drive through a tree-lined road on a too-hot day.

Stay Where You Are

You don’t need to drive to a national park to reap the benefits of nature (though you absolutely can).

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“You really don’t need to go on big adventures. There’s a benefit to nearby nature, too,” says Wolf.

Can you sit outside on your porch and watch the bird feeder? Is there a window of your home that has a particularly lovely view that you can spend some time gazing out of?

“Any contact with nature is important,” says Larson.

Bring Nature Inside

Now’s the time to try out your green thumb.

Decorating your home with plants has been shown to improve blood pressure, cognition, relaxation, and happiness and satisfaction, according to a 2022 review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Visit your local garden center and see if any succulents, snake plants, or fiddle leaf ferns may have a spot in your home. You can even turn it into a social event and invite friends or family members over to create terrariums or paint terracotta pots.

See our sources:
Minutes spent in nature: Scientific Reports
Health benefits: Environmental Research
Indoor plants: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

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