I have a prescription for you. No copays. Unlimited refills. And, it may be one of the best health decisions you ever make.
Rx: Go outside—whenever possible.
You may have heard a lot of buzz lately about the health benefits of nature—and for good reason! Spending time in natural spaces gets you physically active, soaking up vitamin D from the sun, and breathing in fresh air. A simple 30-minute walk in the park will do wonders for your body. On top of the physical health benefits, spending time immersed in the Great Outdoors can boost mental health, directly improving mood and decreasing stress. Studies show that walking in nature—or just looking at it—can lower stress levels and increase feelings of restoration, vitality, and happiness.
The nature pharmacy is a place for everyone to improve their overall health and well-being. Don’t forget to pick up your medication and take it as directed. Here are some tips on getting the most out of your prescription:
1. Find your place.
You don’t need money to enjoy the outdoors, nor do you have to travel great distances to connect with nature. Green and open spaces are all around, whether you find your way to a local trail, a nearby urban park, or your own backyard. Adventuring far and wide to the mountains, oceans, and other wild places is a wonderful way to witness the astounding variety Mother Nature has to offer, if it’s within your reach and budget. However, any nature experience is quality time for your physical and mental well-being; no pocket-park is too small, no sunset or tree is unimportant.
2. Find your niche.
For some, being in nature is an integral part of their personal and professional life. For others, the outdoors may seem a daunting and unwelcoming arena to dive into. However, there are as many ways to be in nature as there are clouds and stars in the sky (which includes taking a peek at said natural phenomena). Try different activities outdoors until you find one that feels good for you.
Could it be a stroll through your local nature trail, or around the neighborhood? Reading or painting in the park? Maybe a game of pickup soccer outside? For all you Reno-Sparks residents, anything from summiting Mt. Rose to sitting for awhile on the banks of the Truckee River will do the trick.
3. Make it a habit.
Doctor-mandated. Your goal is to get outside each and every day—if only for 30 minutes—and that includes work and school days. However busy you may be, you deserve a break, and you will feel and perform better after taking that break outdoors.
4. Keep exploring.
Novelty captures your attention and brings you closer to the present moment. Never let yourself be desensitized to your surroundings. Instead, keep searching for that new natural space that allows you to detach from your stressors and appreciate the beauty all around. Find another corner of the park, a new mountain peak, a different bend in the trail. But remember to keep a balance between inching out of your comfort zone, and feeling good during your time in nature.
Follow these tips, and you will be doing your brain and body a lifelong favor. Walk beneath a tree and learn to be mesmerized by a ray of sunlight, a leaf, or a cloud. When you perch yourself on the edge of the human world, at least for a moment, you start to find peace in the natural solitude around you. It’s worth the occasional discomfort and uncertainty to spend time in beautiful, outdoor places. Get out there, explore, and get hooked on the fresh air.
Consult your primary care physician to discuss which kind of Nature is right for you. Avoid operating a motor vehicle whilst in Nature. Nature should always be paired with a healthy diet, exercise, and sturdy footwear. Apply sunscreen before heading into Nature.
Side-effects may include: difficulty sitting at a desk or computer; gawking helplessly at your surroundings; yearning for mountainscapes; persistent feelings of awe, wonderment, and contentedness; excess dirt under your fingernails; budgeting for travel to the wilderness; increased oatmeal consumption; camping in national forests, but being too exhausted to set up your tent, consequently sleeping in the backseat of your sedan, waking up the next morning, unraveling from your nest of blankets, peering out the window, immediately locking eyes with a startled bystander taking her dogs for a walk, and ducking back into the depths of your car, like a weird gopher retreating into their burrow...Silliness aside, though—go outside! Doctor’s orders.