Spending time in nature can improve your health and well-being.
But, the way you spend time out in nature can affect how much your physical, emotional and mental health will benefit from it. If you’re getting outside to relax, relieve stress or anxiety, focus your mind or improve your health and well-being, try some of these tips to make it a more mindful experience.
There are undeniable benefits for your mental health when you spend time in nature, such as lower stress and better memory. But if you’re usually glued to a screen – phone, computer or any other kind – you may have forgotten exactly how relaxing in nature works.
Don’t give up, hug a tree or two and head for home. There are plenty of other ways to immerse yourself in nature and have fun while you’re doing it. You’ll be taking steps to manage stress too.
Here are 10 relaxing nature activities that will rejuvenate your mind, from the simple to the life-changing.
- Savor the scenery.
Movies beaming with CGI on 4K televisions dazzle our imaginations, but you won’t always find the most mind-blowing spectacles on a screen. When was the last time you got up early to watch the sunrise, or ventured to the nearest hilltop to watch it set? The scenery will mentally prepare you for a hectic morning, or help you de-stress after a busy day so you’re ready for the night.
- Wander the wilderness
Walking is good for you, but not all walks are created equal. Cruising the urban streets doesn’t provide the same mental boost as hiking a local trail or feeling the sandy beach between your toes. You don’t have to have a specific destination in mind, either – your goal isn’t to hike a particular number of miles, but to aimlessly immerse yourself in the natural world around you. The Japanese call this “forest bathing” and it can rejuvenate a weary mind.
- Meditate on the music.
And not the kind playing in your headphones. Leave your electronics behind and listen to the melodies nature has to offer: babbling brooks, bird songs, wind whistling through the trees and the scurrying of unseen animals through the canopy. It’s a lot more relaxing than the honking horns and text message alerts you’re used to, and it offers the opportunity to practice some meditative mindfulness in your tranquil surroundings.
- Get in shape.
If you have fitness goals, there’s no better place to work on them than the great outdoors. Enjoy the fresh air while you go for a jog or walk, and reserve the treadmill for rainy days. (Although running on a misty day can feel great, and keep you cool.) Of course, you don’t have to cover a lot of ground to exercise. Many public parks have exercise stations where you can do stretches and calisthenics such as sit-ups or deep knee bends. Or consider tai chi, for exercise that benefits the mind and body.
- Pose in paradise.
Yoga offers many physical benefits, like stretching the body and building core strength. It relaxes you, too. In fact, if you surround yourself with nature’s beauty, research shows you might up the flow of endorphins and take your yoga session to whole new levels. So try skipping the gym and make a park with a view your yoga studio.
- Study in the sunshine.
If you have studying to do, or written material to digest, leave the fluorescent lights behind and read in the light of the blue sky overhead. Natural environments can enhance cognitive abilities, like memory and problem-solving. So if you want to retain more information for that big test at school or figure out how to win that important account at work, you might have a better shot surrounded by birds and trees, rather than fellow students and chatty coworkers.
- Pack a picnic.
Load a basket with your favorite healthy goodies and have lunch among the flora and fauna. Bring some companions along – a picnic is the perfect way to spend quality time with friends and family without the distractions of the modern-day world. And nature makes socializing with other people easier, so it’s the perfect place to build stronger relationships with those you love.
- Go fish.
Fishing puts you outside, near a body of water, and it rewards patience. All of those are good things. Better still, grab a young niece or nephew or grandchild, and teach them how to fish. Even if you don’t catch (and release) anything, you’ll both forge a treasured, lifelong memory. With a little luck, you reel in a perch that will grow into a marlin after multiple retellings of the story at family events.
- Look, up in the sky.
Thousands of people who watch birds as a hobby are on to something: There’s a special thrill when you can recognize a bird by sight, or by its sound. Odds are, your local Audubon chapter offers free birding walks that are open to the public. Or, turn to the internet for free resources to help you identify the birds in your area. Either way, bird watching gives you the perfect excuse to relax in nature, with your head in the clouds. That’s a great way to fend off stress.
- Sleep beneath the stars.
Now you’re getting serious. Why not disconnect entirely for a couple of days and make nature your home? Camping lets you get further away than a simple day trip allows. Or, if roughing it isn’t your style, consider glamping, where you can maintain some of the creature comforts you love, but still be away from it all. If you take your phone, use it for that cool star-gazing app (or emergencies, of course), but not for scrolling social media 24/7. Forget the Fear of Missing Out and try the Joy of Missing Out instead. #JOMO!
It’s great to get out and #movemore outside, but make sure you #relaxmore, too.
- Start small by scheduling time with a friend to try one of the first three ideas. (They’re easy!)
- Then, plan a bigger trip with your companions to go on a picnic or even a camping trip, as the outdoors become a bigger part of your life.
It’s time to stop reading and take a deep, calming breath in nature, so you can be Healthy for Good!