Many of us struggle at this time of the year, as the days grow shorter, the weather colder, and for those of us in living in Vancouver, the rain seems to never stop. Others welcome winter as a time of renewal. A time to slow down and take in the crisp air. Regardless of how you feel about winter, one thing is certain, spending time outdoors will lift your spirits. We are living in uncertain times, and uncertainty can cause anxiety. So, what can we do to feel more grounded? How about turning to nature? It’s easy, it’s free, and there are so many benefits. Let me share five reasons why spending time outside can help you feel better.
1. Being in nature is one of the best ways to improve your mental and physical health. You can reduce your stress levels just by going for a walk in the forest. In fact, research shows that spending just 40 minutes in nature can lower blood pressure and cortisol levels. Boost the benefits of nature by increasing your physical activity by walking, gardening, cycling, or skiing.
2. The benefits of being in nature are well known in Japan where “forest bathing,” or “Shinrin-yoku,” offers the opportunity to take the forest in through all of your senses and is a prescription for preventative health care and healing. Take your mindfulness practice outdoors. Appreciate the brilliant shades of green of our evergreen trees. Breathe in the smell of winter. It is distinct from all of the other seasons.
3. If you are struggling with a problem, sometimes simply going for a walk can help clear your mind. Being in nature can leave you feeling more focused and centered. Research shows that that cognitive functioning and concentration improve after walking in nature.
4. Taking a nature break can also boost your immune system and improve cardiovascular health.
5. Finally, being in nature improves our mood and boosts self-esteem.
To sum up, being in nature not only makes you healthier mentally and physically, but it makes you smarter too! Your parents knew so much when they told you to, “go play outside.”