Nature is everywhere! But, depending on your specific location it can often feel difficult to connect with the natural world around you, whether you live in a big populated city or find yourself sitting in an office cubicle all day. Did you know that having a strong connection with nature can positively impact your mental and physical health? One common characteristic among people who live a long time is the emphasis they place on getting in touch with the natural world.
We know not everyone can easily walk out their front door and dash straight into the mountains for a trek through the wilderness, be at the beach within five minutes to splash in the ocean on a hot summer day, or spend their evenings toasting up marshmallows by a campfire on a peaceful lake, but getting in touch with nature can be much simpler. If you have access to any of these, great! Take advantage of your surroundings. But if you find yourself feeling confined with no access to “fresh air,” then try out some of these ways to improve your connection with the natural world (and increase longevity in the process!).
- Opt to walk whenever possible
Walking is a great way to move, get fresh air, and take time to connect with your surroundings. Walking not only benefits your health physically, but there are also great mental benefits to walking outdoors. A research study conducted in Japan assigned participants to walk either in a forest or an urban indoor center. They measured heart rate in both groups and the results showed that those walking in the forest had lower heart rates and more heart rate variability (indicating lower levels of stress). They also reported better moods than those walking in urban indoor centers.
Although we’re not suggesting you have to find a forest to be happy, we are suggesting walking outdoors whenever possible. If your morning commute allows you to walk instead of drive or take the bus, then try waking up an extra few minutes early a couple days of the week to walk to your destination and connect with any nature around you. instead of staring at your smartphone during this time, take a moment to be present, look up at the sky, and appreciate your surroundings! Check out the clouds, pause to notice bird sounds, or take note of the trees you pass on your way..
- Explore or Meditate in a Park
Parks are in almost every city and although some are prettier than others (we know, some are filled with trash and poorly kept up), others are filled with beautiful scenery like trees, green grass, and even lots of happy people and their dogs! Did you know that surrounding yourself in nature can make you kinder, happier, and more creative?
If you are lacking creativity in the workplace from sitting inside at a cubicle all day, or simply want to boost your mood by spending more time outdoors, try staking out your city’s prettiest park at lunchtime or after work. You can take a walk, jog, or bring a book to find a pleasant bench or tree to relax under. Whatever it may be, take in the scenery and enjoy it!
- Community Garden
Connecting with a community garden is a great way to gather with others and contribute to the natural environment. Planting a garden in your own backyard is a great way to connect with nature too, but if you don’t have a space to do so, then many cities have community gardens you can join for a low cost.
Try asking a local community garden in your neighborhood or close by if they have space available. Nothing will bring you closer to the earth than working in the soil and witnessing vine ripe tomatoes sprout up at your fingertips!
- Fill your space with flowers or plants
If you don’t have access to a home or community garden, another way to connect with the natural world is by filling your work or home space with flowers, succulents, or other plants. Plants contribute to cleaner, healthier air for us to breathe and have been associated with reduced stress, pain tolerance, and improved mood.
You don’t have to lug a huge fern tree up your building steps to reap these benefits. Simply buying flowers for your home once a week, or buying mini set of succulents or air plants to set by your desk or bedside can improve your mood and health dramatically (and these require very little water and maintenance),
- Open your window shades
It’s easy to feel trapped when you can’t actually see outside! If you normally leave the shades closed all day in your home or office building and feel your mood dwindling rapidly throughout the day, there’s a reason why! Mood is impacted by the amount of light you are exposed to. In fact, one research study shows that exposure to natural light in the work environment is related positively to job satisfactions. After analyzing data from 444 employees, it was found that natural elements of sunlight exposure were associated with lower depressed moods and higher job satisfaction.
When possible, try opening window shades and let the natural light in. If you don’t have many windows in your home or office building, or live in an area with limited sunlight, another way to expose yourself to more light is with a White Light Therapy Lamp. These lamps replicate sunlight and are shown to enhance mood, even without access to natural light! Expose yourself to light and watch your mood increase dramatically!
Even if you may not think you have easy access to nature, these easy ways to connect with the natural world provide numerous benefits to your physical and mental health. The next time you feel confined being indoors, remember that just a simple walk in the park can improve your health and your longevity drastically!