by Jessica Toomer
We can all appreciate the beauty of nature, but did you know being an outdoors person could improve your life?
Science has proven that enjoying the fresh air, nestling amongst the greenery, and finding peace in the wilderness have tangible benefits to a person’s health. Nature can improve a person’s mood, alleviate symptoms of depression and stress, strengthen our cardiovascular systems, and even make our eyesight better. Some cultures even practice specific types of therapy centered on enjoying the great outdoors. With Fall in full swing, the leaves changing, the air getting brisk, now’s the perfect time to step through your front door and enjoy the wonders that await outside.
Nature walks are a fun, educational way of learning your surroundings. If you have woods surrounding your home or know of a park nearby, why not take the family on an authentic exploration of the wild? You can search for native plants or flora, collect berries or even go mushroom foraging—a bonus, you’ll have things you can use when you get back home. Not only will you be occupying your mind and your body, but this is also an activity the entire family can enjoy.
The art of “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku is a proven form of meditation and mood improvement in Japan. The country is known for its crowded urban landscape but it also boasts some of the lushest forests on the planet. Japanese people take advantage of that by forest bathing, which is just simply walking through the forest, clearing your mind, and centering yourself in nature. Of course, you don’t have to have a Japanese forest nearby to practice this technique. Is there a public lawn or park near where you work? Maybe a local garden or even a flower shop? Find a place with greenery and just enjoy being in the moment with nature. See if the stress doesn’t just melt away.
When the air cools and the humidity disappears, exercising outside is its own kind of reward. Why not enjoy nature, or simply just being outside in your neighborhood, by getting a group of friends together to go walking. You’ll enjoy great conversation, take in the sights, and give your body an enjoyable workout.
Certain seasons of the year are better than others when it comes to farmer’s markets, but unless the weather is just uncooperative, you’re bound to find an open-air market near where you live. The idea of open-air markets is two-fold: you get the chance to buy homemade, locally sourced produce and goods, helping out small business owners and bringing home treasures you wouldn’t find at a big box store, but you also get to do all this while enjoying the fresh air. Take a picnic and have lunch somewhere near the market, or buy a snack from a local vendor and just browse the booths. You may not realize it, but you’re getting all the benefits of being outdoors without putting in all of the work.
Volunteering and helping others in need has its own set of scientific benefits, so why not combine the two? There are plenty of volunteer opportunities that take you outside. You could help build a house for Habitat for Humanity, coach a sports team, help out at an animal shelter, or tend to a community garden. Find something you enjoy doing and then see if it’s possible to do it outside.
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