31242802 - travel hiking selfie self-portrait photo by happy couple on hike.“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” John Muir

The outdoors is the healing balm that many of us need when life becomes hectic and harried. Not only do the outdoors bring a certain amount of peace, but studies indicate that being in nature can be healing as well.

Florence Williams, the author of “Nature Fix”,” spent time shadowing researchers on several continents who are on the breaking edge of what is known as nature neuroscience. What exactly is that you may be wondering? Essentially, it is the study of how being in nature can heal us physically and mentally. It's a fascinating read and eye-opening to realize that simply spending time in nature can provide trackable and significant health benefits. Think of it. Healing our minds and hearts with just a few minutes in nature. Can it be that simple?

Here are a few foundational research-based benefits of nature that were discussed in the book.

  • In just 15 minutes in the woods, the stress level cortisol was shown to be reduced
  • Cognitive performance in most individuals increased after just 45 minutes in nature
  • The feeling of awe, which is frequently experienced in nature, increases generosity towards others
  • Fractal patterns, often found in nature, allow the eye to move in such a way as to create alpha waves in the brain, which in turn induces relaxation
  • The sounds of water and birdsong boost the mood and increase alertness

Interestingly, a revelation uncovered in the book is that not only does getting out in nature improve your health but limiting our time outside can actually be detrimental! Williams tells us, “We're increasingly burdened by chronic ailments made worse by time spent indoors, from myopia (nearsightedness) and Vitamin D deficiency to obesity, depression, loneliness, anxiety, and more.”

But, don't take our word for it. The book is a great one to peruse on your own. In the meantime, take advantage of the health benefits offered by nature. Williams put it simply when she wrote, “Distilling what I learned, I came up with a kind of ultrasimple coda: Go outside, often, sometimes in wild places. Bring friends or not. Breathe.”

Step outside. Really. It's that simple. By increasing the time you spend outside by just 5 hours a month (seriously), you may begin to see health benefits. And, if you are short on ideas of how to get outside, here are 95 ways to get you started! What are you waiting for? The mountains are calling.

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