7 Simple Ways You Can Take Advantage Of Nature To Lead A Happier, Healthier Life
Phones not required.
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Cooped-up Canadians are ready to get back outdoors — in safe, socially distant ways, of course — and the benefits of stepping away from screens can be felt physically, mentally and spiritually. If you've been craving some outdoor time lately, the good news is getting back into nature is easier than you may think. The better news is there are no rules to enjoying it.
Taking a scenic drive, bringing your WFH space to your backyard or leaving your phone behind as you go for a walk are all simple ways you can get back to nature. Busy schedules, rainy weather or a lack of motivation are no match for the boost to your well-being that's waiting for you in the great outdoors.
Still, many Canadians are spending less time outdoors than they'd like. According to a recent survey commissioned by Mazda in March 2021, 90% of Canadians feel that nature is great for their mental health and 87% say it reduces their stress levels — but over 80% wish they could spend more time in it.
"Being in nature is like putting your foot on the brake, and when it comes to our health, our bodies are relying on us to slow down more often," shares Nicole Porter, Stress Coach and Wellness Educator.
"With your nervous system calm, it means your body is in 'Rest and Digest' mode which brings with it a few key benefits such as improved digestion, immunity, cognitive health, memory and mood," Nicole tells Narcity.
In fact, 65% of Canadians say that nature has a bigger positive impact on their mental health compared to their physical health. So if you're ready to get back to nature, these seven simple activities are a great starting place.
Take A Scenic Drive To Clear Your Head
Close your eyes and picture driving the open road. With nothing but the road, calming greens of the passing trees, majestic landscapes and a relaxing playlist, a scenic drive is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in nature and take some time out for yourself.
Being behind the wheel of the right car makes a big difference too. Driving something comfortable with smooth handling, gutsy all-wheel control and good fuel efficiency means you don't have to turn back until you're ready.
Take Your Workout Or Stretch Session Outdoors
Like your quads, glutes and lats, your brain is a muscle and it needs attention too. Taking your workout outdoors is a good way to target your body and your mind at the same time. Take it high intensity or select a soothing yoga flow to reap the benefits of being in nature.
"With new things to see, smell, touch, hear and maybe even taste, nature provides an opportunity to experience an entirely different environment," Nicole tells Narcity.
"This is where brain training comes in — if we mindfully walk through nature, and we are mindfully using our senses to pay attention, it is like training your brain to focus. And where there's focus, there's productivity."
Bring Your Zoom Meeting To Your Outdoor Space
Even those with demanding schedules need a little nature reset. If an adventure out of town suits your schedule, take your work outside, even if only for a virtual call. Settle into a seat on your patio and don't forget some SPF.
Nicole shares that just 10-15 minutes of sunlight per day can help your body produce healthy levels of vitamin D and boost your immune system. By taking just one of your calls outdoors each day, you could get more than your fill of this essential vitamin.
Try Out Forest Bathing
Forest therapy, or shinrin-yoku, is the increasingly popular Japanese art of forest bathing.
If you've never heard of forest bathing before (only 15% of Mazda's survey respondents had), it's being in nature and taking it in with all five of your senses — sight, touch, smell, hearing and even taste. Less is more, and simplicity is key. Let your body wander and be your guide, releasing your stresses and worries as you go. There are no rules to this soothing practice.
Try To Spot Some Wildlife
Being in nature doesn't have to mean standing alone in a forest. Pack up the car for a wildlife-viewing adventure to excite your sense of wonder and child-like amazement at the joy of being witness to wildlife.
Many of Canada's national parks offer the opportunity to spot some wild animals — from deer to bears and even bison. Remember to keep your distance and stay in the safety of your vehicle. From inside a comfy car, it's easy to spend hours watching the wonders of wildlife.
Leave Your Phone At Home
Many people live their lives with a phone within arm's reach at all times. While it may feel normal, being constantly in contact with your device is stressful for your nervous system, and it's a good idea to take a break from time to time.
"There are less dings, pings and rings from our devices and it can feel like a mini-vacation. Simply put, there is less stress on our nerves, our nervous system and our brain when we connect with nature, and therefore less stress on our body," Nicole says.
If you want to capture your memories, consider bringing a camera or journal, and take time to mindfully record your experiences.
Get Outside For Better Sleep
The beauty of nature offers more than creating some gorgeous memories. Exposure to natural light, even on grey days, increases your levels of melatonin, Nicole says. Healthy levels of melatonin are associated with good sleep hygiene and can help you get better rest.
Not only can nature improve your well-being in the moment, but you'll carry those benefits with you for days afterward.
The thing about enjoying nature is that the sky is (literally) the limit. Get out for a quick nature walk or plan an immersive multi-day escape - refresh your mind, body and spirit after over a year of hibernation by getting in touch with your outdoorsy side.