We’re three weeks into the year and most of us have already given up on our resolutions. But giving up on resolutions should not mean giving up on leading healthier, more fulfilling lives. In fact, now is a great time to consider reasonable, pleasurable activities that will help us be fitter and happier.
Perhaps the easiest thing to do is to spend time outdoors.
There is mounting evidence that almost any outdoor activity will decrease stress and improve life satisfaction. Improvement in both mental and physical health can be attributed to spending time outdoors. Even something as simple as outdoor play can lead to positive health outcomes.
There are simple steps you can take to benefit from being outdoors. Why not try:
Gardening: The time to plant a spring garden is fast approaching. Check out gardening websites for your area or find a Master Gardener group. Even if you live in a densely populated city, you can grow plants indoors, use window boxes, or find neighborhood green space. Many food pantries around the nation have land plots where people can garden. Whether you grow food or flowers, putting your hands in soil will have positive mental health benefits.
Walking: The simplest activity anyone can participate in is going for a walk in a green space. Walking by yourself or with others can be both physically and emotionally invigorating. Walking can decrease your sweet tooth and improve your creativity. Walking outdoors, particularly in a natural setting, can help to put our problems in perspective. It can take our minds off the pettiness and smallness of so many of the issues we face. And let’s tell the truth – parks and nature trails smell nicer than the indoor track at the gym.
Outdoor Play: The benefits of outdoor play for children cannot be understated. Studies have shown that outdoor play can have a significant positive impact on children’s brain development. Unstructured outdoor play can help children develop social and problem-solving skills. As with adults, being outdoors has a positive mental health impact and reduces stress and anxiety. Whether playing with other children or with the family – walking, hiking, or bike riding – being outdoors together builds family and social bonds.
Chores: Yes, even outdoor chores can have positive mental and physical health benefits. Instead of seeing snow shoveling or garden watering as a bummer, make a game out of your outdoor duties. Shoveling off the sidewalk in front of an elderly person’s house will give you exercise and help you feel good about yourself. Chores are an opportunity for service.
Stargazing: This might not be the most fun in the dead of winter, but getting out of the light polluted city and going someplace truly dark where you can really see the stars is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. The universe is an incredible place to behold. Grab a telescope and thermos of coffee and take off to see the moon and beyond.
State and National Parks: Our state and national park systems are one of the treasures of this nation. To find local resources, search “state parks near me.” For our national park system, search for the National Park Service. At many locations, there are professional rangers or volunteer docents who will share with you the magic of our beautiful parks.
Don’t allow yourself to become a screen addict and a couch potato. Get outdoors and reap the many mental and physical health benefits that come from enjoying our beautiful planet.