“A little garden in which to walk, an immensity in which to dream, at one’s feet that which can be cultivated and plucked; overhead that which one can study and meditate upon; some herbs on earth and the stars in the sky.” - Victor Hugo
Once a fringe field, ecopsychology – which explores the relationship between human beings and the natural world – has become mainstream. Of course you always knew a little fresh air and sunshine were good for you, but now there are studies that prove it. Even a simple view of the outdoors helps reduce stress.
In one study, adults were exposed to mild stress and to one of three views: a glass window overlooking grass and trees, a 50-inch plasma television screen showing the same scene in real time and a blank wall. The heart rates of those exposed to the sight of real nature decreased most quickly. People who faced the TV screen fared the same as those looking at drywall.
Another study showed that hospitalized patients with window views of nature needed less pain medication and spent fewer days in the hospital than those who faced a brick wall. A nature view from a prison cell reduced inmates’ need for health care. And residents of public housing projects who lived near trees showed benefits like more civility, more studiousness, and less aggression.
How do we get back to nature and a healthier lifestyle? Here are seven tips:
- HIT THE DIRT NOW
If you need to find the idyllic meadow of your childhood before you can commit to your hike, you’re not going anywhere. Keeping in mind that time spent in nature hugely reduces stress, give yourself a break and find a park nearby. Anyplace will do.
- GO FORAGING
Turn your outdoor activity into a game by foraging for food. There are MeetUp groups all over the country that connect people looking to pick apples or forage for morels or fennel heads. Always be responsible – don’t overharvest and be certain you know the identity of your plants. Here’s a guide.
- TAKE IT OUTSIDE
Meetings can be toxic to creativity and morale, so professors at Washington University in St. Louis came up with “Meetings on the Move.” The idea is to replace conventional sit-down meetings with outdoor walk-and-talk gatherings. The change of scenery often spurs better ideas.
- CLEAN IT UP
There is no better way to enjoy nature than to get involved in preserving it. You can find stretches of highway or trails to adopt through your local department of environmental conservation or park service.
- HAVE A GOOD OLD-FASHIONED YARD SALE
De-clutter, make a few bucks and enjoy the birds chirping. With free ads on Facebook and Craigslist, this one’s no-brainer. But do check up on local signage regulations; taping your sign to that light pole could blow your whole day’s profits.
- CHANNEL YOUR INNER CARMEN SANDIEGO
There are entire communities devoted to treasure hunts. That’s right, participants go looking for oddities and objects that are stashed away. Geocaching has items hidden in containers all over the world, you track them down using GPS at whatever speed and level of difficulty you like.
- BRING IT HOME
Much of this site is devoted to educating you about the ways in which modern agriculture and landscape techniques have compromised the health of not only the planet but each individual on it. It would be remiss not to encourage you to spend time in real nature by creating your own natural space, whether it’s to put plants in your windowsill, on your patio, or in the ground around your home. And this is where you can make a real difference. To help clean everything from the air you breathe to the water you drink, be sure to use organic soil and fertilizers. Here are some tips on starting your own garden no matter what your lifestyle.