2 Easy Ways to Get Outside This Summer
June is Great Outdoors Month, and rightfully so. With the majority of the country back in bloom, it’s time to enjoy some well-deserved R&R.
Spending time in nature isn’t just an idealistic standard to aspire to, it’s something that leaves you with tangible health benefits. The best part: you don’t have to summit a high peak or travel far to feel a difference. In today’s high-demand world, we tend to be more disconnected from the simplicity of nature than ever before. According to an Environmental Protection Agency study, the average American spends 93% of their time indoors. With over 80% of Americans living in urban areas, it might seem unrealistic to shift the numbers in the right direction. Lucky for us, it’s easier than we may think.
From forest bathing to gardening, we’re digging into some of the most uncomplicated ways to get outside (and get all the benefits). Even if you’re cutting back on your budget this summer, these activities can be as easy on your wallet as you want them to be. Read on to learn how you can get started and weave healthy habits into your summer routine.
Take a forest bath. Derived from the Japanese concept called shinrin-yoku, forest bathing is all about relaxing in an outdoor environment and using your five senses to really take in the experience. Start with leaving your phone or camera at home. The goal is to enter a natural space and let the scene flow through you, without any distractions. How do the twigs crackle under your feet? How do the leaves look in the glancing sunlight? Focus on the details that might usually get overlooked and enjoy them for what they are.
In a Japanese study, viewing plants altered electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings—a recording of brain activity—and reduced stress, fear, anger and sadness, as well as reducing blood pressure, pulse rate and muscle tension.That smell of pine? It’s not just a refreshing aroma, it has legitimate health benefits. Trees release special compounds into the air called phytoncides. Studies show that these particles may support the science behind nature’s positive effects on blood pressure, stress, and the immune system.
While the practice is called ‘forest bathing,’ you don’t need to be alone in the wilderness to try it out. The first step is finding your ideal environment—is there a field you have a special connection to or a park down the street that makes you feel at ease? Start there and simply walk through the space without expectation, breathing in the fresh air and allowing space for reconnection. No matter your fitness level or location, this is a practice you can tap into any time of year.
Get your hands dirty. Gardening is therapeutic for a laundry list of reasons: the fresh air, the vibrancy of the plants—we could wax poetic for hours. Beyond the obvious beauties of getting down and dirty with the flowers, studies show that gardening can help support a variety of health markers. For instance, there may be beneficial microbes in the soil you’re tending, like M. vaccae, which has been clinically studied for its ability to support mood. Studies show that serotonin-producing neurons and the immune system could be positively stimulated by exposure to M. vaccae. So ditch the gloves and let your hands soak up the benefits!
In addition to friendly microbes, getting a dose of vitamin D from sunshine can help support the body’s immune response and stress management. Not to mention the health benefits of the produce you’ll reap if opting for a vegetable garden. Even if you don’t have access to a yard or shared gardening space, you can try your hand at container gardening on an apartment porch (or even a windowsill). Discover what works best for you and get after gardening during peak growing season!
Thompson, R. (2018, June). Gardening for health: A regular dose of gardening. Clinical medicine (London, England). Retrieved June 7, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6334070/
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Reber, S., Siebler, P., Donner, N., et al. (2016). Immunization with a heat-killed preparation of the environmental bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae promotes stress resilience in mice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(22), E3130-E3139.