The average Canadian spends more than 90% of their time indoors, according to the David Suzuki Foundation. And becoming disconnected from the natural world is detrimental to your physical and mental health.
For the past four years, the David Suzuki Foundation has been running the “30 x 30 Nature Challenge,” a program that encourages Canadians to spend 30 minutes outside for 30 days during the month of May, with the goal of creating a “nature habit” that remains all year round.
Nature — or the outdoors — can be a buffer for stress, says Aryne Sheppard, senior public engagement specialist with the David Suzuki Foundation in Toronto. Spending time outdoors makes you more relaxed and reduces the potential for anxiety and depression.
Studies also show that time in nature improves memory retention and concentration. So, spending time outdoors can make you more productive at work and happier overall. Basking in nature also has physical health benefits, such as better sleep, reduced heart rate and lower levels of cortisol (a hormone released in your body during times of stress), Sheppard adds.
Here are three tips to help you achieve your daily dose of nature:
1. Keep it simple
The thought of adding an extra 30-minute obligation to your day can be daunting. Sheppard suggests moving parts of your daily routine outside.
For example, you can incorporate nature into your travel routes by walking down a tree-lined street or biking along a body of water. You can also read the newspaper or drink your morning coffee while sitting on a park bench under a tree. Making gradual changes can make the transition easier.
2. Include your colleagues
Ask your colleagues to join you when scheduling your daily 30 minutes outside. As a team-building exercise, encourage a brown-bag or picnic lunch at a nearby parkette.
You can also host a staff meeting outside by asking colleagues to discuss ideas while going on a walk or sitting at a picnic table. Says Sheppard: “Your mind will probably be more refreshed and more creative if you hold a meeting that way.”
3. Put down your smartphone
Many of us have developed a habit of grabbing our smartphone or tablet when heading out the door. But our dependency on these electronic devices contributes to a constant state of information overload. When you’re overloaded with information, focusing can become difficult and that’s when stress and irritability kick in.
Get the most out of your time outdoors by blocking out the interruptions that occur during a typical day, such as phone calls and emails and text messages — just for that 30 minutes. When you’re outside in nature, Sheppard says, being free of those devices helps your mind relax and rejuvenate itself.