September 8th, 2016
Why Nature is Good for Your Mind and Body
Want to be even healthier? Step #1 is going outdoors. I'll show you how to get down with the greener side of life.
It's all too easy to get caught in a busy cycle of working nonstop and not taking breaks to go outside, relax for a moment, and breathe in some fresh air. But having a good work/life balance is crucial if you want to have a long, happy existence.
Nature is the glue that can help you keep it together in this increasingly noisy world, as research shows that it can improve both your mental and physical health. And there are plenty of ways to tear yourself away from your desk. Here's a guide to getting down with the greener side of life.
Get some exercise.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that nature is good for one’s health, and I always get my days started by taking a brisk walk through the woods with my bag. As I call Durham, North Carolina, home these days, my current favorite spots to walk include Duke Forest and Sarah P. Duke Gardens. While I'm out in the wild, I notice a mixture of people, ranging from relaxed trekkers to those who are hoping to burn calories or save time. I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about nature—all the different ways that you can use it. Breaking a sweat outside is a great way to get your legs moving and enjoy some beautiful scenery along the way. Just make sure you bring along a daypack filled with water, food, and any other essentials to be safe if you'll be going on a long walking excursion.
Escape the technological trap.
Breaking free from the never-ending loop of your Facebook or Instagram newsfeed should be a top reason for getting outdoors. After all, staring at screens too long can hurt your eyes and strain your neck, and it's often a sedentary activity. Nature, on the other hand, offers a beautiful window into real life. If you're addicted to being on your phone, tablet, or laptop, you're bound to find an escape outdoors to be refreshing.
Distract your mind.
If you're constantly glancing at your to-do list or worrying about, say, your finances or your relationships, give yourself a cognitive break by distracting yourself with the sights and sounds of the outdoors. Watch and listen to the birds chirping, the trees swaying in the wind, and the bugs moving around you. My wife and I once embarked on a two-month journey through Southeast Asia where we hiked mountains, climbed waterfalls, and played with elephants (no riding!) and we felt like we improved our mental health each and every day. (Shoe sacs certainly came in handy for our dirty hiking boots while traveling.)
Walking around and exploring your surroundings is an excellent opportunity to learn something new about the world. What's the name of that flower that you see around the corner every day? What sort of tree hangs over the local schoolyard? And what do you call that critter that scoots across your backyard each morning? After a walk, you can go home and Google what you saw or take out books from the library on flowers, trees, or animals to find answers. You can also arrange for walking tours with experts or visit local botanic gardens that have informative signs. Then when you go for walks with others at a later date, you can wow them with your newfound knowledge.
No matter how far you feel like traveling, you can always spend at least a little time in nature each day. Whether you take a short, 10-minute walk around your neighborhood or a one-hour stroll along a trail in the woods, getting outside more often is a wonderful first step toward living an even healthier life.
Do you agree? How do you view your own relationship with nature? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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