A daily dose of nature is essential for our health and wellbeing, say the experts.
Have you had your daily dose of vitamin N? You won’t find it in your refrigerator, fruit bowl, or medicine cabinet, although it’s all around us, and it’s just as essential for health as vitamins A, B, and C. Vitamin Nature is a must.
Still, we’re not venturing outdoors enough to reap the benefits. A majority of us spend less than an hour outside every day (the recommended daily intake is around two hours), meaning half of us are missing out on some serious health and wellbeing rewards. Find out how you can get a boost just by stepping outside your front door.
With a growing number of scientific studies showing that being outdoors boosts our physical and psychological wellbeing, it’s no surprise that some doctors are even prescribing spending time in nature.
1 It boosts your energy
Are you feeling sluggish? Skip the cup of joe first thing and head outdoors. A study by the University of Rochester suggests that 90% of people experience increased energy just by participating in activities outside, and 20 minutes will give you the same boost as your morning brew.
2 It’s good for your eyes
A Canadian study has found that kids’ risk of developing myopia (short-sightedness) drops by 14% for every additional hour spent outdoors per week. Meanwhile, the average adult Brit spends eight hours and 41 minutes staring at screens every day, so it’s essential to give your eyes a break. Being outdoors forces you to look further in the distance, which naturally lubricates eyes and allows your eye muscles and lenses to relax.
3 It increases your immunity
Scientists believe that breathing in phytoncides (airborne chemicals produced by plants) raises our levels of white blood cells, which aids in the fight against infections.
Furthermore, a study conducted by the University of East Anglia discovered that exposure to a wide range of bacteria found in natural environments is beneficial to the immune system.
4 You get your daily dose of vitamin D
To obtain this necessary vitamin, you must go outside and expose yourself to sunlight. Vitamin D is essential for bone and dental health, proper functioning of the immune system, brain, and nervous system. It’s also vital for insulin regulation, diabetes management, lung function, and cardiovascular health.
5 It improves your mental health
With just 20-30 minutes a day, spending time in nature can help boost your mood by reducing cortisol levels. In a study by MIND, participants were assigned to go for a walk in either nature or a shopping center – 71% had reduced symptoms of depression after their nature walk, but 22% of the mall walkers were more depressed.
6 You’ll sleep better
Struggle to drift off? Exposure to natural light first thing can help us regulate our circadian rhythm, so our body clocks become more in tune with nature’s light and dark cycle, and we’re more able to sleep at night.
So how can we incorporate the great outdoors more into our daily routine? Why not skip the gym and take your daily workout outside? Or instead of jumping in the car, why not take a walk?
Ditching four walls for fresh air has endless benefits, including:
- Burning more calories thanks to the varied terrain and conditions;
- Keeping you going for longer. Boredom is far less likely to set in;
- Making you happier. It’s like an organic therapy session! Did you know that breathing fresh air can raise oxygen levels in your brain, boosting levels of serotonin – also known as the happiness hormone?
- Avoiding germs. Yes, treadmills, dumbbells, and changing room floors can be a haven for MRSA, athlete’s foot, and ringworm.
- Plus, it’s free! If you’re using your back garden, right on your doorstep. So what’s stopping you from getting outside?
Get down and dirty
If you want to work out without feeling like you’re working out, then get gardening. It turns out that the average green-fingered adult can burn a whopping 51,428 calories every year just by getting their hands dirty.
That’s right, people who weed are boosting their wellbeing by getting active on average 35 minutes a week, totting up 632 burnt calories every month, according to a study by Argos.
Ramp that up to three 35-minute sessions a week, and you could be blasting through 1,896 calories – that’s almost 23 chocolate digestive biscuits!
As if you need another reason to get up close and personal, the study also revealed that 78% of gardeners claim it reduces stress levels, and the microbiome in the soil can be beneficial for your mental health, too.
You can also read: Mindful Gardening
We’ve all heard how practicing mindfulness has powerful wellbeing benefits. Most commonly, we think of it as a skill developed while sitting indoors in complete silence. But being outside in the natural environment gives us many more opportunities to become mindful.
Exploring nature through different senses is the perfect way to practice mindfulness.
Sound Find a comfortable place to sit, somewhere near greenery or water, and close your eyes. Tune into the sound of nature around you; what can you hear? Pick one and listen to it as long as you can.
Touch Pick a small area around where you’re sitting and gently touch any leaves, trees, or flowers nearby. Focus on the sensations you experience – how do different things feel?
Smell When you next wander outside, stop and smell the roses (literally!). How many different smells do you notice?
Sight The next time that you get outside pick a color and notice everywhere you see it.
You can also read: The 5 Intuitive Senses