Want to make this month the best one yet? Instead of adding more tasks to your to-do list or more events to your calendar, add more nature to your life. Nature holds a variety of physical, cognitive, and emotional health benefits and while there are plenty of studies to support nature’s benefits, all you have to do to know they are true is step outside!
When you step outside, consider heading to these five nature spots. Each one has unique health benefits and allows you to escape from the stress of modern life.
Do you feel calmer when you’re near a lake or ocean? There might be a reason for that. Lakes, oceans, rivers, and seas are all blue spaces with significant mental and physical health benefits.
Blue spaces are bodies of water and areas near bodies of water. This can include lakes, rivers, beaches, bays, landlocked seas, and more. Various studies have found that these blue spaces provide physical and mental health benefits. While it’s important to also spend time in green spaces and your specific comfort nature spaces, blue space should also play a role in your nature experiences.
A 2020 report from the UK’s Environment Agency found that blue spaces significantly impact mental health. Those who spend more time near blue spaces are happier, have lower levels of stress, and feel more connected to the world around them. Not only that, but spending time at blue spaces also increases opportunities to socialize and builds community. In the modern era where our stress levels are higher than ever and many people feel isolated and lonely, heading to a nearby body of water can help!
Complementary to blue spaces are green spaces. Green spaces are areas in nature which offer significant green plants and trees. These spaces can include mountains, valleys, parks, and forest. Forests in particular are a great green space to explore! The practice of forest bathing has significant health benefits.
Chances are you’ve heard the term forest bathing before, but you don’t know exactly what it means. If the term “forest bathing” conjures up thoughts of a nice porcelain bathtub smack dab in the middle of the forest for you, you wouldn’t be alone, but you’d also be slightly off base. (Although that sounds pretty amazing too.)
In fact, forest bathing involves no bathing—not the kind that requires soap, anyway. Also known as forest therapy or shinrin-yoku, forest bathing is a concept that originated in Japan in 1982 and was inspired by Buddhist and Shinto traditions. It involves immersing oneself in nature for its many physical and mental health benefits, using all five of one’s senses. Sometimes it’s combined with guided activities and meditations; sometimes it simply involves slowing down to take a meditative, deliberate, slow walk under a canopy of trees.
In the Sunlight
When you want to improve your health, you most likely think of eating healthy, working out, and maybe even investing in your mental health. But there are other elements which can impact how healthy you are. An unexpected one? Getting enough sunlight.
Forty-two percent of North Americans have vitamin D levels below 20 ng/mL, which makes them deficient by most standards. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk for developing many diseases, including:
- Osteoporosis, broken bones and falls
- Kidney disease and kidney stones
- Fatty liver and other chronic liver diseases
- Heart disease and high blood pressure
- Type II diabetes
- Severe infections such as COVID-19 and Hepatitis C
- Multiple sclerosis
- Autoimmune diseases
- Seasonal affective disorder
- Colon, prostate and breast cancers
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- Depression and other psychiatric disorders
In contrast, getting out in the sun for at least twenty minutes a day can improve your mood, lower your risk for various health problems, and improve your immune system. Direct sunlight at noon is best!
Your Comfort Nature Spot
For many people, nature is their happy place. But what if I told you most people have specific happy places in nature, also known as comfort nature spots? Comfort nature refers to a place in nature where you feel connected. Oftentimes, going there is a form of self care and a way to improve your mood.
Comfort nature places can be based on nostalgia, where you can do your favorite nature activities, or natural settings where you innately feel calm.
Curious what yours is? Take this free quiz to discover your comfort nature spot.
Yes, you read that right. One of the five nature spots you should head this month is indoors! But not just any indoor space–one that has been “greened.” When you green the indoors, it can become a nature haven as well.
This is an especially useful practice if you live in a place where it’s too hot to go outside during the summer or conversely, too cold to venture outside in the winter.
How exactly do you green the indoors? Here’s four ideas:
- Add houseplants to your space
- Use natural colors in decor, like blue and green
- Improve your home or apartment’s air quality
- Utilize natural elements in your home decor (ex. Photos of nature, letting natural light in, and diffusing essential oils with natural smells)
Looking for something to do once in nature? Try these five nature activities once you’re in your favorite blue space, garden, comfort nature spot, or in the sunlight:
Looking for extra support as you venture out into nature? Consider My Nature Dose. This free ten day walking plan decreases anxiety and boosts your mood overall. It’s the perfect program for those who want to feel lighter, happier, and less stressed with minimal effort.