How often do you spend time in nature? If your life is anything like my crazy one, my guess is you are not spending nearly enough time in the great outdoors. The benefits of spending time in nature probably won’t come as much of a surprise. This is something that is quite intuitive and a bit obvious on the surface. However, you probably didn’t realize how much of a difference it makes to spend time in nature versus spending time in a city environment.
In this article, I’m seeking to convince you that the benefits of walking in nature far outweigh purposeless walking in a city or urban environment. There are so many health benefits from going hiking or even a local stroll in the park.
With more people now living in an urban environment than a rural environment, it is important that we take this topic serious. Here are three reasons why you need to start spending 20 minutes outside in a green environment each day.
Does your family have a history of depression? I know mine does.
Depression runs high in most countries and unfortunately affects around 15 million Americans every year.
Difficult bosses, busy lifestyles, and extensive use of social media can at times lead us down a slippery slope of not feeling all there. How can we combat the terrible disease of depression?
Studies have shown that spending time in nature will boost your mood and make you a happier person.
A recent Stanford study found that walking for just 50 minutes in a park will boost your mood and improve your memory and attention. I can always use a little more focus in my job, what about you?
The study goes on to say that a 90-minute walk can change the way your brain thinks and combats depression significantly more than just walking around a city center.
If you want to improve your mood, head to the park.
2) Spending Time in Nature Lowers Your Stress
Recently, in a Japanese study, participants were tested on all important health variables for two different groups. One group walked in nature and the other group walked in an urban center. Both of the groups walked the same distances and the same amount of time.
However, the results that came out were much more dramatic than I would have thought. The forest walkers had significantly lower heart rates, less anxiety, and a better overall mood. This proved that how you walk is just as important as the fact that you should walk!
To further back up this research, a Finland study showed that those that spend just 20 minutes a day in nature showed significantly less stress than those in a city environment.
Can you spare just 20 minutes a day during your lunch hour?
3) Spending Time in Nature Helps You Be More Kind and Generous
Have you ever noticed that whenever you go hiking or for a walk in the park everyone around you seems to be so friendly? Everyone is quick to say “hello” or smile back at you when you make eye contact.
It’s certainly not like the angry and solemn crowd you see squeezing into a subway or waiting in line at Starbucks. This, of course, is not by accident.
In fact, the Journal of Environmental Psychology has found that time in nature leads you to more positive emotions like greater prosociality and heightened generosity towards others.
Participants have been found to display a more agreeable behavior, be more empathetic, and helpful towards others. Do you struggle with any of these areas?
This is something I know all too well from personal experience that I had last week. On the walk to the park, I found myself arguing with my wife about this and that and going on and on. It was not productive, that’s for sure.
Then, sure enough, when we started walking around the park our moods slowly began to change. We became less combative. Sure enough, after we left the park and headed home in a taxi we were much more empathetic to each other and it was as if we didn’t even argue at all earlier on!
If you struggle to be generous and thoughtful towards others, it might be time to start a habit of spending a little more time in nature.
Create an Action Plan
The hardest part about spending time in nature is doing it consistently. Again, just about everyone instinctively knows that spending time in nature is a good thing to do and is beneficial to your health.
Just like flossing your teeth, sometimes it’s hard to do the things that are good for us. Why is that? For one, we are busy human beings and sometimes even 20 minutes a day is more than we can handle.
The other main detractor is that habits are hard to build! Creating a consistent habit of being in nature is something that takes time and commitment. Here is what you need to do.
Schedule 20 minutes on your calendar at the same time each weekday to take a stroll around a nearby park or wooded area. The easiest way to do this is to put it at a time when you never have anything on your schedule. For instance, early in the morning or on your lunch hour (after eating lunch).
I started doing this to create the habit of reading each morning and now I very seldom go without reading each day. Make a commitment and stick to it! So, if you say you are going to walk around the park after lunch every weekday make sure you don’t miss a day.
Finally, look at your calendar and plan out a 3-5 day trip to a National Park of your choosing. If you are anything like me, you can always use a little more inspiration. Buy your flights and book the trip in advance. Doing so will give you a greater commitment to your overall well-being and sanity.
Wrapping It up
By this point, you should have selected a time and a place to go walking or reading in nature for at least 20 minutes a day 5 times this week. 20 minutes a day to improve your health is worth it in my opinion.
You should have also picked out a National Park to visit and planned a date for your next trip. It doesn’t have to be an intense backpacking experience. Staying at a hotel and doing day hikes or scenic overlooks will work just fine.
Next week, at this time, look back and think to yourself was I less stressed this week and was my overall mood better for the most part? I am confident your answer will show at least a slight improvement if you spent 5 days in a natural environment.
After you completed the 1-week experiment let us know how it went. If you can do 1 week then you can do two weeks and on and on. Slowly through the compound effect, you will notice big changes in your overall mood and well-being. I know I have.
BIO: Nate Alger is an outdoor enthusiast who writes fun hiking articles and gear recommendations at liveoutdoorsy.com.