Do you want to be happier, healthier, and smarter? Add a daily dose of nature to your routine. Over the past decade, researchers from fields as diverse as biology, psychiatry, engineering, horticulture, neuroscience and medicine have realized what most of us know intuitively: nature is good for our health and well-being. These experts have discovered countless links between time spent outdoors and cognitive, physical, and emotional improvement. Studies show that enjoying a natural setting — like a park, beach, wetland, or forest — can reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and stress levels. Exposure to nature can help you sleep well and increase vigor and liveliness. It can even boost your immune system. (It sounds like a doctor’s prescription with no side effects, and no cost.)
In their new book Your Brain on Nature, naturopath Alan Logan and Harvard physician Eva Selhub cite dozens of studies that demonstrate the health benefits of the natural world. They even refer to outdoor physical activity as “exercise squared” because it can increase energy and fitness levels while reducing fatigue, depression, and obesity.
Melissa Lem, a family doctor and member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, says exposure to nature is vitally important for kids. Ailments like myopia, asthma, and depression have also been linked to inadequate nature exposure. While this scientific body of evidence is fascinating and growing quickly, most of us remain unaware of the full range of health benefits that nature provides. With the busy lives that many of us lead, taking time to get outside may seem difficult. But it’s easier than you think. Green space is as close as your local park or backyard garden. Trails, ravines, and community gardens are often a short distance from the daily grind. And birds, bees, and other critters are usually nearby; you just have to take time to slow down, breathe, watch and listen.
For the young at heart, a British organization called the National Trust has put together a list of 50 outdoor adventures all children should have before they are 12. The list, found at the Daily Mail, boasts the joys of rolling down a big hill, eating an apple picked fresh from a tree, and hunting for bugs.