6 ways to de-stress and relax in nature

October 05, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Are you glued to a phone, computer, tablet or other screen for most of the day? It’s time to take a break, unplug and head outdoors.

Connecting with nature is healing. Ever heard of the phrase “forest bathing?” It means simply being in nature, and it’s getting a lot of attention because of the mental and physical health benefits.

Studies have shown that taking time to unplug and be outside, with no goal beyond just experiencing the world around you, has a positive effect on your well-being. Spending time in nature can improve memory, lower stress hormones, and reduce feelings of depression or anxiety, among other perks.

Being in nature can help clear your head and bring you into the present moment, and is a great way to de-stress and relax.

How do you leave your home and office behind and take advantage of your natural surroundings? The American Heart Association offers some ways to relax in nature, including:

  1. Watch the sunrise/sunset – Get up early to watch the sunrise, or head to the nearest hilltop to watch it set. It can help you prepare for the day ahead and de-stress after a busy day.
  2. Go to a park, garden, nature preserve or local trail – Take a relaxed, meandering walk, let go of the thoughts in your head, and focus on the present moment.
  3. Head to the beach – There’s nothing like hearing the waves lapping on the shore, feeling sand between your toes and gazing at the ocean to relax your body and mind.
  4. Venture to the mountains or a lake – Kick back and relax in the mountains or at a lake, where the air feels fresh and clean and you can enjoy scenic views.  
  5. Try yoga or meditation outside – Instead of hitting the yoga studio, take a yoga class in the park. Or, find a quiet spot outdoors and practice mindful meditation.
  6. Go camping or have a picnic – Disconnect and make nature your home. Pitch a tent and sit by a campfire at night. Or, pack a picnic, grab a friend and enjoy a meal outside.

When you’re outdoors, focus on your senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Studies show that engaging the five senses can help promote feelings of calm and relaxation.

Gaze at the vast sky, the greens of the trees, the tranquil water, or vast mountain tops.  Listen to the birds singing or seagulls calling, the breeze through the trees, or the sound of a babbling brook or waves on the shore.

Breathe in the fresh air and smell the fragrance of the ocean, lake or forest. Some plants release immunity-boosting compounds into the air, and being in the sunlight is thought to increase levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin. Feel the sand between your toes, place your hands on the trunk of a tree, or dip your fingers in a stream.

If you must, schedule time to spend outdoors on your calendar, and leave your screens behind when you go. Once in nature, let your mind relax, take a deep, calming breath and enjoy better health.

Want to move more? Spend time outdoors? Breathe in some fresh air? Join us on an 8-week journey to explore the outdoors and tackle fun, weekly challenges to get your whole family moving! Learn more about the Healthy Driven Take a Hike! Challenge.

Related blogs:

5 ways nature can improve your health

How nature can help you heal

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