What if the next time you visited your doctor, they prescribed a 30-minute nature walk? The idea of nature as medicine might seem unlikely, but isn’t that farfetched. Your doctor has probably asked about how much you drink or whether you get enough exercise, but have they asked about the time you spend outdoors? The evidence is clear that nature can positively affect our health, and the medical community beginning to get on board.
A small but growing group of healthcare professionals are starting to write prescriptions for visits to the park for their obese, diabetic, depressed, or anxious patients. These doctors are prescribing what’s known as “ecotherapy” by taking out their prescriptions pads and writing instructions for visits to the park -- just like they were prescribing a medication.
The best part about ecotherapy is that you don’t actually need a prescription from a doctor. You only need the motivation to do something good for yourself by enjoying nature. Here’s how spending time outdoors can help you live longer, healthier, and happier.
How Does Nature Impact Your Health?
As a human, you are designed to be outside. Your brain is wired with the ability to respond to the sights, smells, and sensations you get from being outdoors. Research shows that what you experience from your environment has the power to change not only your mood, but also your nervous, immune, and endocrine systems.
Being outdoors has a huge impact on your mental and physical wellbeing. But with our modern lifestyle, most Americans spend almost 90% of their time indoors. After a long work week, it’s easy to want to spend your evenings and weekends curled up on the couch. But the truth is, spending time in nature isn’t just a nice experience, it’s actually very important for optimal health.
Did you know that...
- Spending time in nature is associated with healthier blood pressure
- Nature sounds can shift your nervous system into a state of relaxation
- Living close to green space is associated with healthier body weights for adolescents and adults
- People who regularly spend time in nature are less likely to take anti-depressants
- Children who have outdoor access tend to have fewer behavioral problems
These are just a few of the many benefits that spending time in nature can provide. From lower stress to better immunity, getting outdoors is essential to your wellness.
How to Get More Nature in Your Life
It’s easy to feel inspired to make healthy changes, but they can be hard to implement. The good news is you can get more nature in your life on any budget, location, and timeframe. Here are some ways to experience the benefits of nature, whether you have just a few minutes or all day.
A Few Minutes
Only have a few minutes to spare on your work break? Get your feet on the grass. You’ll experience the soothing sensation of bare feet on the earth, plus you’ll expose yourself to some new bacteria which can boost your immune system.
Try making the most of the time you spend walking to a meeting by stopping to smell a flower. Turn your face to the sun to soak up some rays while waiting in line for coffee. It will feel relaxing and give you a boost of vitamin D while you wait for your caffeine boost.
A Half Hour
If you’ve got 30 minutes, you have time to take a walk. Even if it’s just around your local park or neighborhood, walking can get your body moving and help clear your head. If you don’t’ feel like a walk, sitting outside is another healthy option. Try eating your lunch at a nearby park. You’ll be surprised how the fresh air makes your sandwich taste that much better.
Feeling overwhelmed? Go out and lay on the grass and stare at the sky. You’ll instantly feel more relaxed, and your body can mingle with new bacteria to help your build immunities.
A Half Day
If you’ve got a few hours to spare, why not enjoy a picnic? It’s as simple as throwing some healthy food into containers and grabbing a blanket. Head to the nearest shade tree and remember to stay hydrated.
If you’re feeling a little adventurous, go out an explore. It’s good for your brain to get off the beaten path, and taking a longer route can help you get in some exercise. If you’d rather chill, try whiling away the afternoon in a hammock. String it up between a couple of trees and enjoy a few hours with just your water bottle and a light breeze.
A Full Day
If you’ve got all day to enjoy mother nature, go for a hike. Even if you live in an urban area, you’d be surprised just how many trails are available to enjoy. If your not sure where to start, do a quick internet search for hiking in your area.
If you are lucky enough to live near a body of water, take your family to the beach, lake, or river for the day. And if you’d rather stay home, get out in your garden. Working outside is one of the easiest ways to get some experience and reap the benefits of nature. Don’t have your own yard? Try volunteering at your local community garden.
When you’re constantly inundated with health and wellness trends, it can be easy to forget the basics. Going outside is about as basic as it gets by keeping wellness simple and embracing the healing potential through nature.