Spending time outside, and more specifically in green spaces, can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. Being outside offers us time to pause, to connect to the present moment, and to soak in all that mother nature has to offer. There is a growing body of research focused on the positive effects that the natural world has on our health, including stress reduction and physical healing.
Studies are showing that nature is not only a “nice-to-have”, but it’s a “have-to-have” for optimal physical health and cognitive function.
We all have different reasons for wanting to connect more to nature and to the outside world. Maybe you want to start exercising more? Or you want to start growing your own vegetables? Or maybe you simply want to get some more fresh air because you heard that it’s good for you?
Whatever your reasons, spending more time in nature is never a bad idea!
It is actually quite the opposite!
Nature is an antidote for stress
There is an abundance of evidence promoting the positive benefits that spending time in nature offers us. I mean, we all feel that sense of peace when going for a walk somewhere green, right? (And we’ve noticed that when our minds are relaxed, we actually tend to have some pretty good ideas pop up while we’re out in the woods too!)
Being outside calms the stress response in the body by lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels. A gentle stroll in your local park can improve your immune system function, increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety and significantly ease a bad mood. Even better, you get these benefits without spending a penny!
“I’d love to, but I don’t have the time!”
We hear you! We all have busy days and a neverending list of responsibilities. So what if you don’t have the time?
Well, first, you don’t need to go camping for 3 days to start feeling the benefits of nature. One study found that 120 minutes per week was enough to significantly change an individual’s mental wellbeing. And this two-hour time frame can be spread throughout the week.
So whether you decide to spend 20 minutes a day throwing a ball in the park for your pup or go on a hike for 2 hours on the weekend, it’s a pretty great return on investment, don’t you think?
And all it takes is a little planning!
You could even schedule your nature time ahead of time in your calendar! We know it works for us because if it isn’t on the calendar, it doesn’t exist! So we make sure to block time off to go breathe in the fresh air. And we set reminders for ourselves too.
Now that we’ve made the time for it… the next obstacle might be motivation…especially during the winter months ahead. So we’re here to share some tips on how to take advantage of the outdoors EVEN when it gets cold out!
How to spend more time in nature, even when it’s cold
If you live somewhere with harsher winters, or anywhere with a big shift in seasons, it can feel a bit daunting to get outside. Nobody really enjoys being cold after all.
But that doesn’t mean you need to stay indoors the whole time either. The benefits of nature are available to us, no matter the weather!
6 ideas to spend more time outdoors when it’s cold out!
1. Find a reason to be outside
If you struggle with motivation to get outside, why not find something (or someone) to give you a little encouragement. Meet a friend for a walk, try out a new outdoor activity, register and train for a 5k, sign up for a local dog-walking app such as Wag Walking or even look at volunteering to help your local community. There are so many ways to inspire yourself, and others, to head outside.
2. Follow the sun’s schedule
Darker evenings are a big factor for people wanting to hide away indoors at the end of the day. The sun shines a little less and our options for outdoor activities seem fewer as the light begins to fade.
Counterbalance your levels of sunlight by waking up a little earlier to catch those morning rays. Winter can take its toll on our mental health, so it’s important to prioritize taking care of ourselves.
Or better yet, why not switch up your morning commute, or add in more walking or cycling to your daily routine?
A bonus is that getting up earlier helps to reduce stress and anxiety by giving us more time to process the day. Try it out for a few days and notice the difference in your mood and wellbeing.
But what if you are in one of those places where it is still dark when you wake up? Take it from Kailie, who lived in Anchorage, Alaska for a few years – you can (and should!) make time during the day to be outside. To start, try waking up to a sunrise-simulating alarm clock. Or go to work a little earlier (I mean, what’s the difference of an hour earlier if you’re getting up in the dark anyways!) or stay a little later (same argument here!) so you can take a longer lunch break or afternoon walk outside to enjoy the few moments the sun is out! Adapt your schedule to spend time outside in nature when the sun is out.
Pro tip: Fat tire bikes are great in the snow, and they even make mittens for your handlebars so you can keep your hands toasty in the cold! And for those icy days, yaktrax can make walking in the ice a little less daunting.
3. Explore new places
The holidays are a great reason to get out of town, or even to explore your local town or city. Look up Christmas markets or local events to get inspired! You can start scheduling some fun activities, especially for the weekends.
Consider an annual cozy winter getaway, like the magical Bavarian village of Leavenworth, WA or a secluded cabin in the woods, like Little Owl Cabin near Mt. Rainier.
We often associate vacation time as being limited to the hotter months or hotter places to escape the cold, but there is a lot of adventure we can have in the colder months (and in the cold!) too. If we look beyond the cold temperatures, we can embrace the outdoors no matter what.
A couple of years ago, a friend of ours invited us to do a backcountry skiing/snowshoeing trip at the Wallowa Alpine Huts. It wouldn’t have been something we’d have considered without the invite, but it ended up being SO.MUCH.FUN (and a good workout!). We stayed in a private yurt camp in the middle of the mountains with a woodfire stove and a nearby outdoor sauna. It was a trip of a lifetime!
4. Commit to a challenge
You are your biggest inspiration and motivator (or so they say). So why not try setting a physical challenge to focus on? Daily step counts, weekly miles ran, monthly miles cycled? There are so many ways we can create goals that motivate us and get us outdoors at the same time. Find an accountability buddy or even hire a personal trainer to help.
Download at the top of the page our habit tracker to keep track of your progress!
5. Wear appropriate clothes
Dressing appropriately is key. Gear can either make or ruin a trip…trust us, we’ve been miserably cold a time or two ourselves!
Whether it is a set of Smartwool socks, a pair of Feathered Friends down booties and hand warmers, or a waterproof (note: water-resistant and waterproof are NOT the same in our book) rain jacket, make sure your clothes keep you dry and warm. Sometimes it’s that simple!
While Kailie lived in Alaska, one quote she frequently heard was, “there’s no such thing as bad weather. There’s just bad gear!” And it’s true – as petite women who get cold fast, we can tell you, good gear makes all the difference.
6. Be grateful for the change of seasons
The hardest part is often our perspective. What if we shifted our thinking and stopped considering rain or cold as “bad” weather? For example, when it rains here in the Pacific Northwest, let’s send out some gratitude because it helps keep our forests green and lush and gives us fresh powder to ski on in the mountains.
No matter the weather, there is always something to deeply appreciate about the great outdoors. Care for your mental and physical health this season by getting outside as often as you can.
Are you ready to spend more time outdoor this month? Give it a try and enjoy how good it feels!
Don’t forget to download NATURE HABIT TRACKER to get a daily reminder to step outside and some motivation when you don’t feel like it! (It’s at the top of the page!)
We’ve got you! You got this!
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