Today is the first day of spring.  Although there are fluctuations, in many parts of the country, in many areas, the temperatures have been spring-like.

When you work inside, have a long commute or lead a busy lifestyle, you may find that you spend little time outside.  Instead of soaking up the sun’s rays, you may spend your days primarily exposed to artificial lighting, indoor noise pollution and a controlled climate.  And rather than sitting outdoors, we are often consumed by digital media that surrounds us.

The average American spends several hours a day watching television as well as additional time with other digital media.

Artificial environments can lead to mood, sleep and diurnal rhythm disruptions as well as short-term impairment of attention and thought and long-term reduced academic performance.

Getting back to nature is underused as a strategy treat psychiatric disorders and improve well-being.  In a recent review of the literature, one study found that natural settings can enhance both physical and mental health.  After being outside, people feel more at peace and better both emotionally and spiritually.

Tips to Reconnect with Nature

  1. Take a stay-cation:  Block off time as “stay-cation time” and use it to be outdoors in your own backyard or neighborhood.  Get outside and garden, sit on a porch or deck, lay on the grass, or take a walk to a park or down a tree lined street.
  2. Open the windows:  Let fresh air in through the windows.  Open up the house to a fresh breeze, crack the car windows as you drive and even open a window at work. 
  3. Stop and listen:  Nature is full of sounds that are soothing and create a sense of peace.  Even when you are indoors, you can hear the birds outside in the trees or the rain on the roof.  Turn off the TV or disconnect from other media and set aside some time to just listen to the outdoors.
  4. Breathe:  While outside, focus on breathing in fresh air. 
  5. Be aimless:  Go outside without a purpose.  Allow yourself to sit and enjoy the moment, without the pressure of having a purpose.  Because we are such a goal-oriented society, it can be difficult to be aimless.  If you need to, set a timer and give yourself a specific amount of time to be aimless.
  6. Bring Nature Indoors:  If it doesn’t feel like spring outside, bring it in.  Plant some seeds or bring some flowers indoors.  Brightening up a space with natural elements can be calming.
  7. Walk:  Replace some other typical activity, say a trip to a coffee shop or an evening TV show, with a 20 minute walk.  During your walk, focus on your connection to the earth.  Notice your feet as they touch the ground, the feel of the air on your skin, the emerging colors as nature begins to bloom.
  8. Eat fresh foods:  Take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables.  Notice the fullness of the flavors in fresh foods.  Consider replacing a processed snack with a whole fruit, a salad or some other food that grows in nature.  As your eating, think about how the food grew in the sunshine and is nourishing your body now.

Flock of lambs photo available from Shutterstock.