When your mom told you to “go play outside,” she’s not just trying to get you out of her hair – she also wants you to become healthier.
As you grow older, you’ll find that “adulting” and facing all the other responsibilities and issues in life can be stressful. And we all know that stress is a killer.
Fortunately, there is one thing that can help ease your stress without requiring much effort or expense: spending time out in nature.
By participating in environmental activities, you get a chance to de-stress and give your body time to heal. In fact, research on ecotherapy reveals a strong link between spending time in natural settings and reduced levels of anxiety and stress.
Although it isn’t very clear yet how this happens, many people attest to the positive effect of outdoor excursions on their mental health.
In 2015, a study compared the brain activity of healthy people who took a 90-minute walk in a natural setting with those who strolled around an urban environment. The subjects who went on the nature walk had lower prefrontal cortex activity. This means that they had less repetitive thoughts that tend to focus on negative emotions.
To experience the positive results of these studies first-hand, here are five ways you can shake off stress by being out in nature:
1. Do Some Gardening
Whether it’s taking care of an entire flower bed or just a single potted plant, gardening is a great way to rekindle your love for nature and alleviate the stress you feel. This is because the time you spend outdoors with your hands in the soil can help you feel more relaxed.
Aside from serving as an excellent form of exercise, watering plants and digging up soil can also give you a wonderful sense of accomplishment when the seeds you sowed begin to grow. Plus, you’ll get to contribute cleaner air to your neighborhood and create a healthier planet.
2. Cuddle a Pet or Take Him for a Walk
Pets are some of Mother Nature’s most trustworthy workers who bring about calm and relaxation to anyone who cuddles them. If you have a dog, petting and playing with him could help release the “feel-good hormones” called endorphins and the “love hormone” oxytocin.
You see, dogs are bred to respond to human emotions and help you feel better by simply keeping you company. So, bring your furry pal out for a walk and take advantage of the mutual benefit it can give you and your pet.
3. Ride a Bike or Let Your Mood Soar with a Kite
Ecotherapy is all about partaking in low-cost outdoor activities such as riding a bike or flying a kite.
If you live in the city, you can try riding your bike through the park and any other urban green spaces you could find. Not only will it give you the exercise you need, but it will also help you get some fresh air that could help ease your stress.
Similarly, you can buy inexpensive kites at your local hobby store and seek out open grounds where they can soar without catching onto trees or poles. You see, flying a kite during a windy day is a very relaxing activity as it helps you breathe more deeply. And deep breathing is known to bolster both mental and physical relaxation.
4. Take Pictures of Nature
Constantly browsing the internet on a mobile device is a typical activity among sedentary individuals. Being content with surfing the web rather than engaging in activities outdoors prevents you from reconnecting with nature.
Instead of looking at images on your social media timeline, consider taking pictures of nature instead. Photography can help you gain a new perspective of the world you live in. Plus, it can also keep your stress levels in check.
When seeking photo opportunities, be sure to look for the beauty of the world around you. Unique seasonal and geographic elements would help you take a one-of-a-kind picture. You can also arrange for a visit to a wildlife sanctuary so your photos would include some rare creatures that aren’t normally found at your local park.
After collecting a couple of nice nature shots, save them to your computer or phone and make them your wallpaper or screensaver. This way, you can easily look back to the time you spent taking them and instantly experience the tranquility once more.
5. Go on a Barefoot Stroll
Strolling is another excellent nature exercise to try when you’re stressed, but there’s one more way you can make it more exciting: Walk barefoot.