Most of us lead busy lives – work, the gym, shopping, cafes and restaurants. But all this activity usually takes place far away from green spaces. We’re hunched over computers and phones or out tottering about in high heels or crunching steel at the gym and taking less and less time out to discover nature.
Exercise is obviously important to maintaining health, but where you exercise is just as important as how often you do it.
Many of us have gym memberships, and while the regularity of working out with a bunch of strangers in front of that unforgiving mirror (or a large screen reflecting Taylor Swift’s impossibly healthy-looking frame) may have an important place in the exercise routine, it’s also important to get access to the natural world, which has proven restorative benefits.
Nature is free, it’s abundant and, what’s more, it has been shown to be important for mental health and wellbeing. Green space clears the head and revives the spirits.
Here are some tips to help get you back into nature:
1. Disconnect your technology
Most of us are tethered to our phones – forever checking social media and work emails. If you get the opportunity to do so, put the phone down for a set period of, say, 24 hours and consider putting away the iPad and turning off the TV. Suddenly, you have all this time on your hands. Now – all you have to do is open the front door and step outside.
2. Try some gardening
Gardening is the ultimate way to get back in touch with nature. There is something extremely satisfying about nurturing plants and watching them grow and thrive. If you have a garden, then your work is probably cut out for you – mowing the lawn, planning garden beds and pruning trees are therapeutic and help to de-clutter the mind.
If you live in a unit or apartment, there are plenty of ways to cultivate plants in small spaces – for example, on balconies or in courtyards. You can purchase seed kits and small houseplants to get you started. Bring the garden indoors – it’s still an effective way to connect with nature!
3. Get a pet … or borrow one
Walking the dog is the perfect excuse to get some fresh air. Most dogs need daily exercise and they need you to help them get it. Dog walking is remarkably relaxing – and it can even be a surprisingly social activity. Single dog walkers have been known to meet other single dog walkers and get talking! If you don’t have a dog, ask pet-owning friends if they’d like help with walking their dog. They’re bound to be grateful and happy to share the love. And who knows where it might, er, lead.
4. Ask your friends to join a walking group
It might feel like the sorts of thing pensioners do, but walking groups are great, especially for women who might not feel comfortable walking alone. Consider getting a group of friends together and pick a meeting point at a nearby or central park – you could bring flasks of coffee or a picnic and just get walking.
It’s a great way to conduct an extended gossip session and can be done early in the morning, before work, to enjoy the wonderful stillness and solitude of nature, or, in summer, in the evening to watch the colours of sunset.
5. Feeling more ambitious? Get running!
See above, but get jogging. It might require a little more dedication – and a little less talking – but getting a group of friends together can make outdoor fitness a reality. Use that competitive spirit to get the edge on your friends!
6. Grab your partner and find time for a weekend away
If you live in an inner-city area, or you just don’t have access to a convenient park, it might be time to book a weekend away. Camping provides an immersion in nature that suits some people perfectly – or you could stay somewhere comfortable and plan some bushwalking around your romantic getaway.
Nature-guided therapy and horticultural therapy are just two of the ways doctors have helped patients in their rehabilitation from injury and illness.
Dr Claire Henderson-Wilson is senior lecturer at Deakin University’s School of Health and Social Development. She says there are many physical and mental health benefits derived from being out in nature: “Research indicates that green spaces are associated with lower mental distress and higher wellbeing.” [Click to Tweet]
In other words, nature helps us relax.
So get out there into the greenery– and feel better!
March is Go Green month at Aussie. Don’t forget to check out our other articles in this series for practical tips on going green: Be an eco-friendly traveller, get tips on having a natural skincare routine, save on your energy bill, and learn smart life hacks for sustainable living!
What outdoor activities do you find relax you the most? Please share with our readers in the comments below!
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