One of the easiest ways to increase your general wellness is to spend more time outside, enjoying the beauty and wonder of nature. Yes, you read that right – feeling better could be as simple as opening the door and heading into the great outdoors, whether it's as small as your backyard or as majestic as a national park.
A recent study showed that spending just 20 minutes in a city park had wellness benefits on participants, who reported that their “life satisfaction” increased after visiting the park. You don't need to go for a long run or miles-long hike to enjoy nature's feel-good benefits; a walk around the block when you';re stressed, eating lunch al fresco, or enjoying your morning coffee on the patio are easy ways to reap the benefits of the great outdoors and recharge.
In Norway, they call such outdoor experiences “friluftsliv,” and people are encouraged to spend time outside even when it's freezing cold, whether that's bundling up to walk the dog, go on a hike, or visit with a friend. In Japan, it's “forest bathing,” or shinrin-yoku, where you head out into the woods, ground yourself, and open up your body to nature. It's been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and encourage mindfulness.
Current social distancing regulations have changed the way many of us enjoy life outside of our homes, but just because things are a little different right now doesn't mean you have to stay inside 24/7. Here are a few ways to enjoy the outdoors, no matter the weather.
Go camping in the backyard. There's no need to haul your camping equipment across the country. Set up a tent or two in your yard, roll out the sleeping bags, and fall asleep under the stars with the family. And yes, s'mores are required.
Visit a new park or hiking trail. You may already have go-to spots for hiking, biking, dog-walking, and wandering, so mix it up and try something different. Take a drive and explore a new area on foot or by bike; you never know what you'll find.
Move Sunday dinner outside. Picnics are fun no matter your age, and the possibilities are endless. Try homemade pizzas and let each family member choose their own toppings. Go classic and grill kebabs, veggies, and burgers, or opt for old-school with pasta salad, sandwiches, and pie. Make it a weekly tradition and relish those evenings al fresco alongside a delicious meal. In the winter, bundle up and grill or build a bonfire and roast hot dogs. Get creative!
Throw a neighborhood movie night. Do you own a projector? Great! Consider your home the new drive-in theater. Pick a seasonal movie, invite your neighbors or friends, and set up socially distant viewing spots so everyone can spend time together without getting too close. Remind everyone to BYOS (bring your own snacks) and BYOB (bring your own blankets)!
Head off on a bike adventure. Seeing the world via two wheels is fun and a great way to keep active almost all year long. Whether you're going hard or enjoying a low-key pedal around town, hitting the road on your bike is one of the best ways to take advantage of a beautiful day. Pro tip: Pack a picnic and stop at a scenic spot for a drink and a snack.
Go for a walk. As the days get darker and colder, it may be more difficult to safely connect with the people you love. Follow the Norwegians' lead and make spending time with your friends, family, and coworkers a priority by meeting up outside, no matter the weather, and taking a short walk together. Even just a few minutes of chit-chat can make you feel happier and more optimistic.
Head outside with no plan whatsoever. If you live near a body of water, a hiking trail, or acres of farmland or forest, it's time to explore. Don't rely on a plan or a checklist, but instead let the environment tell you what to do. Maybe that means relaxing on the beach or layering up to go sledding. Regardless of how you choose to spend your time, don't forget to experience the outdoors with all of your senses and take a moment to thank Mother Nature for all of her beauty and wonder.