Studies show that people who spend more time in nature have lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and tend to live longer. Getting outdoors has also been shown to help reduce the effects of PTSD, alleviate stress, and improve our mental health.
Women’s Health Magazine describes just how powerful the health benefits of getting outdoors are, saying that “the farther you live from green space, the likelier you are to be in poorer health. Other research suggests that rising rates of allergies and autoimmune disorders might be caused, in part, by less exposure to healthy bacteria found in nature.”
But What If I Can’t Get Out In Nature?
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to get away on nature-filled vacations or quiet backcountry retreats. Folks living in big cities, those who rely on public transit to get around, and people in suburban landscapes may find it difficult to get out and find some greenspace to kick back and enjoy. And as author Carolyn Finney delves into in her book Black Faces, White Spaces, there is a legacy of slavery and racism that has kept Black Americans from seeking outdoor access and the health benefits it can bring.
Today, more advocates for the outdoors—like Outdoor Afro, Pattigonia, and Get Out Stay Out—are working to reverse that legacy and make getting outside an accessible wellness activity for everyone. We support their efforts and want to offer some tips for folks who are looking to get more benefits from nature, but who can’t or aren’t yet ready to embark on an epic backpacking adventure. Whether you live in the city, the suburbs, or the country, you deserve to be able to get outside, breathe fresh air, and boost your health naturally with the help of Mother Nature.
5 Ways To Access The Amazing Health Benefits Of Nature
1. Start small by incorporating plant life and green scenery in your home. Potted plants, windowsill herb gardens, or even just posters of trees in your apartment are all easy ways to work more nature into your life. Studies say that just surrounding yourself with natural scenery can boost your mood and help you focus, so even though they are small, a few houseplants can make a big difference.
2. Get more plants on your plate. Don’t forget that vegetables and fruits are plants, too! The fresher your produce, the better the health benefits will be for you so if you can buy them at a farmers market, through a farm CSA, or at a trusted grocery store, those are always the best options. In-season produce is shown to be better for you, so try to buy your fruits and veggies from as close by as possible. If you can’t find a farmers market, Misfits Market offers direct delivery for produce that would have otherwise been thrown away—we love it!
3. Play nature sounds to keep calm and help you sleep. Even if you can’t get to nature, you can bring some aspect of the outdoors to you with soothing rainforest or ocean noises. Just changing your soundscape can reduce heart rate and alleviate stress, so this is a great tool for calming down after a stressful day or before going to bed. We highly recommend this meditative nature playlist on Spotify.
4. Take a walk around the block. Chances are there are some signs of nature surrounding your home. City-planted trees lining sidewalks, banks of tulips on the sides of neighbors homes, or even the unruly empty lots in between businesses can harbor surprising delights and natural health benefits. If you make a habit of walking around the neighborhood once a day or a few times a week, you may start to notice how the leaves sway in the wind and the flowers that pop out at different times of year. Noticing these things is like a little meditation, and making a habit out of walking is undisputedly good for your heart, mental health, and overall longevity.
5. Look for local nature reserves, parks, and resources. Think that just because you live in a city that you can’t get outside? Think again! Most cities have a mixture of large sprawling parks with trails and meadows for exploring and smaller, more community-oriented parks that are great for walking, playing games, or just sitting and observing. If there are mountains, rivers, or beaches in your area, check out the national park service and your state parks to see whether some of them are open for recreation. Oftentimes, the most beautiful natural destinations are right within our city limits.
This post was written by Faye Lessler, a California-based freelance writer working towards environmental justice. She writes best while sipping black tea in a beam of sunshine.