Computers, phones, and electronics have made life easier, faster and more efficient. But, while technology has benefited our modern lives in countless ways, the overuse of it has created physical and mental dependencies that are disconnecting humans from nature and our communities.
According to NHAPS, the average American spends only 8% of their lives outdoors! The effects of being indoors for prolonged periods of time can include anxiety, sleep issues, and mood swings. The good news is you can reduce or eliminate these effects by getting outside every day for a daily dose of nature.
Just 10 minutes of time outside each day can boost your mood and increase cognitive brain function. This isn’t just a theory, it’s scientifically proven that nature creates changes in brain function. According to Science Advances, time in nature is largely associated with increased happiness, well-being, better social interactions, a sense of purpose in life, and a decrease in mental distress.
More and more people are beginning to understand the important relationship between humans and nature. But, it can still be a challenge to turn off screens and get motivated to get outside, especially if the weather isn’t picture perfect. So, here are a few ways to increase time outdoors.
6 Simple Ways to Spend More Time with Nature
Wake Up and Get Out for a Walk
Instead of reaching for your phone when you open your eyes, grab your shoes and outwear and opt for the benefits of fresh air. Studies show that people who wake up and start their day outside have better sleep patterns and lower risks of depression.
Take a Lunch Break to Enjoy the View
Whether you are at work, school or working around the house, taking a break mid day to look at nature can have physiological benefits that help the body relax and refocus. Lunch-view breaks can help reduce stress, lower your blood pressure and your heart rate. The views don’t need to be grandiose or spectacular, even looking at trees, bushes, and grass can be enough to give you some mid-day peace.
Opt for the Sunset
Instead of winding down in front of a screen, head out and take in the sunset. Studies show that when people are exposed to natural beauty they are more likely to have a positive outlook and feel a deeper sense of gratitude.
The weather in the PNW is unpredictable, but 8 out of 10 times you can catch a great sunset. If you’re in Bellingham, WA, head to some of our favorite local spots to soak up the last of the evening sun: Larrabee State Park, Boulevard Park, or Waypoint Park.
Make a Date with Friends
Friends make everything better, including nature. If you need motivation to get your daily dose of nature, be accountable to a friend or group. Walking outside in nature increases your serotonin levels, improves your immunity, gives your body a chance to soak up natural Vitamin D, helps you to shed stress and anxiety, improves your outlook and boosts your mood. We recommend joining a daily guided walk with Recreation Northwest to improve your health and happiness while you learn more about the local environment.
Honor Your Inner Child with Play
Children aren’t the only ones who can play on a playground. Swinging on a swing or sliding down a slide is a great way to get in touch with your child-side and enjoy the outdoors at the same time. You are never too old for outside play.
Plan for a Weekend Excursion
Sometimes a little bit of planning goes a long way. Whether you’re heading to the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest for a backcountry hike, or walking around Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C., planning outdoor-centered activities into your schedule holds you accountable to yourself and others.
Setting aside time to have fun in nature is part of living a healthy, balanced life in a technologically ladened world. The health benefits of nature are far greater than the risks of getting rained on. So, layer up, put a waterproof shell on and head to your nearest trail. If you live in or near Bellingham, WA, there’s a good chance that you’ve got a trail within minutes of your doorstep!
Looking for More Ways to Get Out and Explore?
Recreation Northwest offers a wide range of outdoor experiences. Join us for a daily walk or hike, or sign up for one of our experiences with one of our nature education experts.
Recreation Northwest is a 501(c) 3 charity. Our mission is to teach the health benefits of nature, promote outdoor recreation, and steward the places where we play.
Learn more online and give at RecreationNorthwest.org.
Co-authored by, Lauryn Haywood, Recreation Northwest Spring 2022 Communications Intern
Related articles: Children and Technology: 10 Steps to Control Their Usage, DefendingDigital.com
As Director of Programs, Elizabeth Nelson brings her B.S. in Public Health, her extensive work with trauma survivors of domestic and sexual abuse, and her own experiences of the positive connection and health benefits of time spent in nature into the Parkscriptions program at Recreation Northwest. She is a certified Wilderness First Responder. She has a broad range of experience running her own business and working in nonprofit and government organizations.