The best thing about my apartment is that it’s surrounded by trees. It also has a balcony that allows me to step outside for some fresh air and light movement throughout my day.
I often take advantage of my little slice of nature when I need a quick mental health break — or to recharge my energy.
Over the last few years, nature has become a crucial part of my daily ‘Age with Joy’ routine.
Being outside has always been a ‘happy’ place for me. But now more than ever, I sense the profound benefits of being outdoors deep in my soul.
On the days I take a break from exercising indoors, you’ll often find me surrounding myself in the natural beauty of giant oaks, blooming serviceberries, or even something as ordinary as fresh-cut grass.
Science says exposure to natural environments can be associated with mental health benefits.
I also enjoy ‘forest bathing’ — a traditional practice that involves going out in nature and deeply immersing yourself in all it has to offer your senses. The smell of flowers, trees, plants — and noticing when they smell different after rain. Listening to birds, noticing the rabbit next to you, and taking in the beauty with your eyes down to your soul.
While I can personally attest to its benefits, there is, in fact, growing evidence that forest bathing is a natural stress reliever.
Research suggests spending at least two hours a week outdoors, and the more, the better. When possible, I often take my exercise routine outdoors to combine my outside time with movements that promote a healthy body and brain.
While we’re practicing physical distancing, this might include a hike, a solo meditative or more challenging BodyBrain nature walk, a Tai Chi session, or dancing on my balcony looking at the blue waves in the outdoor pool and soaking in the beauty of the surrounding trees.
As the weather warms up, I often do aqua fitness in an outdoor pool, preferably later in the evening when I can watch the sun go down or the stars twinkling overhead.
Leveraging the benefits of nature, however, doesn’t have to be time-consuming. As little as 10 to 20 minutes of sitting or walking in an array of green spaces has been shown to reduce stress, anger, anxiety, and increase vigor, comfort, and a sense of feeling refreshed.
Here are 4 easy ways to get a breath of fresh air:
Schedule your time outside.
Some days are full. Getting even an hour of uninterrupted time outside is hard. So instead, schedule in mini doses of nature time. You can make simple changes like starting or ending your day with a walk around the block. When the weather cooperates, enjoy your lunch on your patio or doorstep.
Spend just 10 minutes enjoying the beauty of blossoming trees or planting your bare feet in the cold blades of grass. Nature isn’t as easily accessible for some, but even taking time to observe ivy growing up a wall or a fresh breezing slipping through a window can help you unwind and gain perspective on a busy day.
Get out in the garden.
The simple movements of gardening have multiple benefits, including lowering your brain’s stress hormonesand release mood-boosting chemicals that can help calm anxiety.
Dirt also has beneficial microbes. Breathing in, playing in, and digging in dirt may be valuable for your health as garden bacteria you may inhale help combat anxiety and depression as well as improve your immunity. As noted by the AARP, digging in dirt could also lower your risk of dementia.
Gardening can also be a beneficial form of aerobic and functional physical fitness as pulling weeds, twisting, and bending works new muscles and positively impacts strength, stamina, and flexibility in ways that a slow walk could not achieve.
Bring plants inside.
Adding nature to your day isn’t always possible, perhaps due to being in a wheelchair or needing assistance to leave your home. If this is the case, bring nature inside. A variety of potted plants and natural sounds from portable water features or smells from natural candles and aromatherapy can still do wonders when looking for peace, tranquility, and a positive state of mind.
Look up Martin Pazzani’s book Secrets of Aging Well: Get Outside
And join the Age with Joy Community to receive more valuable tips and resources for taking control of your physical and emotional destiny. The power is in your hands!