Spending time in nature is one of the best ways to feel calmer, lighter, and more at peace. Doctors around the world are even beginning to prescribe nature for people with anxiety and depression. Here, we’ll share some surprising ways you can add more nature to your daily life, no matter where you live.
It takes less than you think
First, don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have nature around you. After all, cities weren’t built with the health and wellness of every individual in mind. They’re helpful for getting to work and school, but not much thought was initially given to how important green space is for mental health. Time in nature helps us reconnect with ourselves and feel more at peace.
Luckily, it doesn’t take much to have an impact. Just 120 minutes of time in nature, even if spread throughout the week, has a huge benefit on reducing feelings of depression and anxiety.
First, it’s important to start small when setting any new goals
Getting more time in nature doesn’t have to be anything big like a long drive to the mountains or an expensive weekend getaway. Plus, maybe what you associate with nature, like camping or going on exhausting hikes, is not something you’ve ever done before. Maybe your friends or family aren’t big nature lovers, or maybe you just don’t feel like you have the energy or time to do big trips and get outdoors more. Luckily, absolutely none of that is necessary to get all the benefits nature has to offer.
Tiny ways you can bring nature to you
One super simple step is to begin by just making your home more green. Research shows the more plants you surround yourself with, the less stress you feel. Plants help our nervous system relax and allow our blood pressure to flow, helping us feel more comfortable and soothed. What’s even more amazing is that just looking at images of flowers reduces our heart rate and helps us feel more relaxed (apparently, red and yellow flowers have the biggest impact!). So, getting a few plants or prints of flowers for your home is already a huge step forward.
Check out what’s around
Next, let’s start by thinking about some easy first steps to getting outdoors a bit more. Are there any parks around or green spaces you enjoyed visiting in the past? What about taking a short bike ride, drive, or public transportation to get to a comforting quiet area? Try searching for parks and gardens with google maps, now that we know how important they are, most cities are trying to create more green spaces for people to enjoy.
Urban walks have been shown to boost your mood and help recover from low moments, making walking in nearby gardens and parks is a fantastic way to begin. Amazingly, just walking in natural open spaces helps our brains become more analytical, making it easier to process emotions and eventually, move forward.
Begin with habit stacking in mind
Another great thing about starting small with walks in a park is that you can habit stack to make it more likely you’ll get out. Habit stacking is all about adding (or removing) something to your day that’s already routine. Like, right after you make your morning cup of coffee or tea, put on some nature sounds, like birds chirping or rain falling. Even just the sounds of nature help to calm your nervous system.
Another example could be, after putting away the dishes when you’re finished eating, instead of sitting back down, put on a pair of runners and head outside for a walk. Experiment with routines that work for you. Some people prefer a brisk cool walk in the morning before they start their day, while others like to go late in the evening to wind down before bed and avoid screen time. As long as you stack it to another habit, and set alarm reminders, you’re more likely to get going and start enjoying the benefits.
Getting to rural areas
If you’re wanting to go somewhere remote, you can start by looking up hikes and checking out the views and scenery to get inspired. If you’re just seeing intimidating hikes around, don’t worry, you never have to do the whole route. It can just be a nice place to start until you find a quiet spot to sit before going back. Plus, if you want some extra motivation, you can send a message to someone who might want to join. Scheduling and planning a date with a friend makes it over 60% more likely you’ll do it. That’s a big chance!
Finding a community
If you’re feeling ready to explore even more, check out some outdoor groups in your area. There’s usually a walking, hiking, cycling, outdoor yoga, stargazer, horseback riding group, and much more available. If there isn’t anything that really interests you, consider making your own group and posting it to different platforms to invite people to join you. Getting a supportive community together helps everyone to feel more supported and eager to take part.
Choose what’s best for you
As with any new habit, it takes trial and error to find what fits best. Start small and wait until you feel comfortable with each new step before trying another. With an open mind, you may find yourself to be a nature lover with habits you never thought you’d love.