Having access to green space does wonders for our health, in mind and body.Do you love the greening that spring brings, the color jumping back into the world after a winter of white and gray? Or have you ever been walking down a busy city sidewalk and spied a bit of green that lifted your spirits and made your day (or at least the moment!)? Have you ever been stuck indoors and longed to look at a tree, a plant, a patch of grass, any bit of nature to connect you with the outside world?

Get outside and reconnect with nature – it’s for your health!

There’s something to all that. Green spaces, nature, plants, being outdoors, parks, flowers, trees, running water…all of these things are soothing, calming, full of life and joy, and just plain good for us, mind, body, and soul. That’s why we need to get outside more often. It’s medicine!

I am lucky that my house backs up to a canyon and I get to see nature every day out my door wall but I know that others aren’t so lucky, especially in urban spaces. But some urban neighborhoods are trying to add more nature amongst the concrete with small parks and urban gardens; I love this idea! Gardens are popping up everywhere, even in the tiniest of urban spaces.

Don’t have green spaces near you? Make your own. No space is too small.

I’ve seen some pretty cool vertical gardens growing up on buildings large and small, some amazing rooftop gardens on homes and businesses, and succulent walls are popping up all over the place around here at local restaurants.  It’s amazing how much even a simple, small bit of nature in these spaces can lighten your heart, make you breathe a little deeper, and help you feel a little less stressed and a little more happy. (want tips on how to garden anywhere? Click here.)

Benefits of green spaces

In areas with more green spaces, residents tend to perceive less stress, have better cortisol profiles (the natural cortisol fluctuations that occur throughout the day are healthier in those with access to green space), and are more active than residents with less access to green spaces.

That’s pretty powerful stuff for just getting outside into a little greenery every day. Parks, paths, nature preserves, bodies of water, groves of trees; all of these things have a positive effect on our mental health. They’re also pretty damn good for us physically, too. By reducing stress, our bodies relax a bit more. By being inviting, we tend to walk more to get there and through there, so we’re bit more active.

Get outside, especially you, ladies.

The positive benefits of getting outside and into some greenery seem to be even greater in women than men, although their seen in both. So ladies, we need to get outside more often during the course of our day, particularly if we work indoors.Can't get outside? Just looking at pictures of nature can be restorative.

Having indoor plants is also beneficial, even just looking at pictures of nature is beneficial (that’s why I’m sharing a few with you!), but you get the most bang for your health buck by heading out of doors.

So get outside!

At least a couple times a day. Seek a nearby park, some trees, a garden, a courtyard, a patch of grass, where you can grab a few moments of respite.  Grab some fresh air, relax,  observe nature, take a break…allow yourself some unstructured time to reset, restore, and re-energize.

Disconnect to Reconnect

During the course of the week, make some longer jaunts into nature. Stroll through a forest, head to a lake (even better – get out on the lake!), hike in a state park, go camping. Leave the screens and tech gadgets behind. Immerse yourself in your surroundings.

Reconnecting with nature is incredibly restorative, both psychologically and physiologically. Not only does being in nature reduce stress and help us relax and give us a mental break, it helps keep our circadian rhythms in balance which helps with hormone regulation, weight management, sleep, and a whole host of other health benefits.

References for my nerd friends

Time spent in trees is never wasted - get outside. Restore your mind, body, and soul.

Irvine, K.N., Warber, S.L., Devine-Wright, P., & Gaston, K.J. (2013). Understanding urban green space as a health resource: A qualitative comparison of visit motivation and derived effects among park users in Sheffield, UK. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 10(1), 417-442. 2013 doi: 10.3390/ijerph10010417

Roe, J.J, Thompson, C.W., Aspinall, P.A., Brewer, M.J., Duff, E.I., Miller, D…, Clow, A. (2013). Green space and stress: Evidence from cortisol measures in deprived urban communities. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 10(9), 4086-4103. doi: 10.3390/ijerph10094086

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