While telecommuting and socializing via technology has become the new normal, it’s important to take time to unplug. A few years ago, the average screen time for adults in the United States landed at 11 hours per day. This number has gone up to an astonishing 19 hours per day on screens during the pandemic. According to research commissioned by Vision Direct, the average U.S. adult will spend the equivalent of 44 years of their life staring at screens.
However, stepping away from the screens alone may not be enough. One of the best prescriptions for improved mental health is to also step outside. Connecting to nature allows us to relax, clear our mind and feel energized.
Research has found that spending time outside can help reduce negative emotions and improve overall well-being. Whether it’s a hike in the woods, walk in the park or picnic outdoors, connecting to nature can be incredibly beneficial to your health.
Emotional Benefits of Experiencing Nature
- Improved mood
- Lower levels of stress
- Increased feelings of relaxation
- Boosted attention, memory and creativity
- Greater levels of happiness and subjective well-being
- Reduced feelings of isolation and greater sense of connectedness
- Increased sense of meaning and purpose in life
- Improved sleep
While the emotional benefits of nature are vast, venturing outdoors can also improve physical well-being. Spending time in nature can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, encourage physical activity and enhance immune system function.
Research has found that spending 120 minutes a week outdoors is ideal to reap the positive benefits of nature. While this may sound like a big commitment, spread throughout the week, this equals less than 20 minutes a day. Converting your previous commute time into a 20-minute walk every day or spending an hour outdoors two days per week is all it takes!
Ideas to Help You Unplug and Get Outdoors
Here are some easy ways to spend more time in nature:
- Develop an outdoor hobby. Whether it’s sports, photography or gardening, there are tons of different activities that can get you out of the house.
- Swap a TV show for a more portable podcast or audiobook. Listen to an interesting podcast or audiobook while taking a walk or even just sitting outside.
- Take everyday indoor activities outside. Bringing your morning coffee, lunch, exercise or reading outside is a simple way to integrate nature into your daily habits.
- Plan an outside gathering. Summer is the perfect time to plan a picnic, barbecue or pool party with friends or family.
- Try something new. Spend the weekend visiting a local farmers market, going kayaking or exploring a new hiking trail.
- Volunteer outdoors. Volunteer at a local animal shelter or outdoor charity event to feel more connected to nature and your community.
- Join a club or group. Doing activities with others can help you stay motivated and is a great way to meet new people.
- Explore and learn. Research your area and discover green or blue spaces you didn’t know existed. Also, be intentional with your time outdoors by learning something about what you are seeing—the birds and plants, for example.
- Grow something. Plant a small garden outside. Tending to the plants is time spent outside and can produce flowers to bring nature inside or even food for your dinner table.
Don’t wait to find time for nature; make time to reconnect with the great outdoors. Schedule your time and make it part of your daily habit or weekly routine. Prescribe yourself a daily 20-minute dose of nature as an easy and accessible way to enhance your well-being.
Sources: Vision Direct, mind.org.uk, Forbes, YaleEnvironment360, Greater Good Magazine, Science Direct
Another Reason to Head Outdoors Today
Getting outdoors is good for your mental and physical health. If you complete a Take Action activity while you’re out there, it can be good for your wallet, too.
Head to the pool and track your swimming with 10K-A-Day. Sit on your porch and listen to the Daily Calm on the Calm app. Take a walk and track your steps in the Rockwell Automation Walking Challenge. Or join a local 5K as your Community Athletic Event. You’ll feel happier, improve your health and even earn rewards under the Health Management program.