• Time spent in nature has huge benefits for your physical and mental health
  • You can find all kinds of nature spots close to home or the office
  • Supercharge your nature time with additional activities beyond just walking
Many of us spend a huge proportion of our lives in boxes.

We wake up in the box of our home, drive in the box of our car to get to the box of our office and sit all day in the box of our cubicle.

If you’re lucky, you might have a scenic drive to work or have a garden or outdoor space at home but many of us don’t even have this little luxury.

We know that balance is important and that we should take regular breaks at work and dedicate some “me-time” on the weekends. But even these activities can easily end up taking place indoors.

At work, we leave our desks to go sit in the break room to eat our lunch. At home, we unwind by sitting in front of the TV or scrolling on our phones.

But when we think about balance and downtime, it’s also important that we think about spending more time outside with nature and less time indoors.

Being outdoors has huge benefits for us. Most of us know this but, if you live in a major city, it can seem like a hassle that requires a lot of planning or significant travel.

The once yearly trip to some beach paradise or tropical escape is great but we need to find ways of bringing that outdoorsy goodness into our everyday lives. It doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive or time-consuming and the benefits are even greater than you think.

Mother Earth’s Medicine Is Truly Amazing

In today’s modern world, we’ve become so surrounded by technology and so disconnected from our environmental surroundings that we forget that we are part of nature.

Being in our natural surroundings is good for our wellbeing - so, of course, extended time away from those surroundings isn’t great for us.

Many of us are constantly looking for ways to manage work stress and to overcome constant fatigue and general ill-health. In many cases, we seek out the artificial quick fixes and often overlook the most obvious prescription - nature.

Spending time in nature has a ton of benefits, many of which have been proven by scientific studies.

But don’t just take our word for it, watch this 2-minute clip from the UNC School of Medicine and get their take on it too.

VIDEO: Mental Health Benefits of Getting Outside
LENGTH: 2:10
Summary points:
  • Being in nature boosts your mental healing and recovery
  • Frantic brain activity is calmed when you’re out in nature
  • Even just 10-15 minutes of walking in nature can provide huge benefits

Mind Benefits Of Being In Nature

When we feel stressed or overwhelmed, many of us feel an intense need to get away - usually to a beach or park or other natural escape. This is no coincidence!

We’re all meant to be in and with nature.

So, when we feel out of sync and unbalanced, getting back outside in nature is one of the best remedies around. The stress-relieving effects of nature are well documented.

1. Lowers Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is the stress hormone and consistently high levels of it can lead to chronic stress and anxiety. Spending time surrounded by nature helps to lower the level of cortisol in our bodies, thus reducing our stress levels.

This study from the University of Luxembourg even found that its effect on cortisol is more significant than that of another well-known stress buster - exercise.

2. May Reduce Risk of Depression

Time in nature lowers stress and improves our general mood. This is clear. Furthermore, this study from Stanford University found that it may even go so far as to reduce the risk of depression.

We know that living in urbanized areas increases the risk of mental illness, though scientists are not clear on exactly why, so this study offers an excellent preventative technique for those of us living in the concrete jungle and trying to survive the rat race.

3. Improved Cognitive Function

Immersing yourself in nature isn’t just about improving your mood like those tree-hugging hippies. It actually has some more practical real-world benefits too.

Studies have found that time in nature helps to improve cognitive function. This research published in the Ecopsychology journal found that even bringing nature indoors had a positive effect on the memory of university students.

Another study by Cardiff University saw an increase in productivity of up to 15% in employees who had plants added to their working space compared to before.

Reconnecting with nature, even in these small ways, helps to clear and reset your crazy mind and allows you to get in the zone at work and get shit done.

4. Increased Creativity

Another practical benefit of getting outdoors is an increase in creativity.

While this may sound arty farty, creativity is key in our everyday and working lives. It helps us to come up with innovative solutions to our problems and gives us a more positive outlook on life.

While this University of London study focused on full immersion in nature for four days, it’s finding of a full 50% increase in creative problem-solving is reason enough to try and up our time in nature even by a little bit.

5. Can Induce A Meditative State

Beyond simply calming us down and improving our mood, this study from the University of Edinburgh showed that being in nature can go as far as to induce a meditative state within us.

The benefits of meditation are widely documented and range from improved digestion to better sleep. And, a meditative walk through the woods definitely beats a few minutes on an app!

With so many of us experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety, especially when it comes to work, time in nature is now a “must-have” addition to our wellbeing routines.

How about going into a casual meditative state right now?

Let’s chill out for a little bit.

This video below is a really relaxing nature scene with only the sounds of nature and nothing else. It’s an 8 hour long video so we don’t expect you to spend your entire day watching this, but just stare and listen to it for a few minutes and relax.

It’s not as good as actually being outside in the woods, but you will lose yourself and you can feel your stress melting away.

Put on your headphones and press play below.

VIDEO: Relaxing Nature Sounds
YOUTUBE: jonnielawson
LENGTH: 8:20:03
Summary points:
  • The sounds of birds chirping and a gentle flowing stream is all it takes to settle the mind
  • Watching a video of a nature scene is helpful but nothing beats the real thing
  • Go for a short nature walk today at a nearby park or plan an easy hike this weekend

Body Benefits Of Being In Nature

While a lot of the mental wellbeing benefits of spending time in nature might seem obvious, the effect it can have on your physical body might surprise you.

Nature heals both mind and body.

1. Improves Air Quality

You don’t need to be a science wiz to figure out the most basic benefit of being near plants. They produce the oxygen that our bodies so heavily rely on.

With many of us spending our time in smoggy cities and stuffy office buildings, the quality of air that we breathe on a day to day basis is pretty damn poor.

This is why we recommend having low-maintenance cubicle plants at your desk. They not only help to clean the air, they also boost your mood too. But, as good as they are, they can’t compete against the great outdoors.

2. Lowers Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most common chronic conditions in many Western countries. In the U.S. alone, a huge 1 in 3 adults will experience this preventable condition.

This study from Gunma University in Japan found that the practice of “forest bathing” - literally just spending time in a forest or similar environment - has a significant impact in lowering blood pressure.

This is useful not just for those already experiencing hypertension but also as a preventative treatment for those without the condition.

3. Boosts Immune System

Being in nature produces benefits through multiple senses - sight, sound, smell and touch. This is why our physical presence within nature is important and that we’re not just watching it on a screen all the time.

In other words, nothing beats the real thing.

This study from the University of Queensland found that inhaling phytoncides - a substance emitted by plants - has a positive effect on our immune system.

The same study also found that the inhalation of negative air ions produced by plants has many benefits for both our physical and mental wellbeing.

And guess what? You get all those benefits for free out in nature.

4. Reduces The Intensity Of Pain

Studies have shown that even just being near nature can reduce the intensity of chronic pain compared to being located far away from any natural spaces.

Being able to see plants from the hospital window was shown to reduce pain in patients, and a reduction in rumination also related to generally less pain.

For anyone suffering from a chronic condition or in a recovery process, nature could be an extremely effective way of managing pain.

5. Reduces Muscle Tension

Related to the mind benefits of reduced stress, spending time outdoors can help us to relax physically as well.

We hold a lot of tension in our muscles, which can then lead to problems such as tension headaches, neck and back pain.

Relaxing in nature can help us to release this tension.

All these rewards of being in the great outdoors make it a no-brainer - but a lot of us feel like we just don’t have the time, energy or resources to head outdoors and spend quality time with nature.

Spending time in nature doesn’t have to mean hopping on a plane or driving for hours. Even if you live in one of the most urbanized cities in the world, there are ways you can get your nature fix.

Finding Your Go-To Nature Spots

When we think about being in nature, our mind often defaults to lush green forests or rolling hills. But, there are lots of ways to immerse yourself in natural surroundings close to home or office.

1. Local Parks

Even though your local park might be the same size as your living room with barely any trees in sight, you’ll still reap huge benefits from spending time there.

If you don’t know where it is, just pull up Google Maps and look for green spaces. There’s bound to be one not too far from your office or home.

Try eating lunch in the park followed by a short walk. Or spend 10-20 minutes strolling around a park after work. It’ll help you decompress and disconnect from work before driving home.

2. Nature Trails

Many areas have specific nature trails that your local government looks after. These trails will usually take you on a relatively easy walk through some nice green spaces.

And, it doesn’t have to be some gung-ho crazy hiking trail. The simplest and easiest of trails are the best since you can take a relaxing walk and not have to worry about twisting your ankle.

If you look online, you’re sure to find some near you.

3. Tree-Lined Neighborhoods

For those that live in the suburbs and outside of the hustle and bustle of the city, your nature remedy is right outside your doorstep. Most suburban neighborhoods have a good balance of greenery to homes.

You’re paying to live in that area, so why not take advantage of that?

In fact, why not make it part of your weekday routine?

When you get home after a stressful commute, change out of your work clothes and go for a decompression walk before dinner.

Or, take a walk after dinner. It’ll help with digestion.

4. Ponds And Lakes

Nature doesn’t always have to be green.

Find your local pond, lake or even reservoir and spend some time there. And, if it’s got some ducks or geese, that’s an extra added bonus!

Water has a way of relaxing away stress.

Whatever option is available nearby, you’ll find the calming reflections, sounds of rippling water and maybe a few soft duck quacks will instantly relax you.

5. Beaches

And of course, there are sandy beaches. The beach is a great place to immerse yourself in nature too!

It might not have the green trees and birdsong of the forest but it definitely comes with its own benefits. The sand between your toes, sounds of the waves crashing, seagulls in the distance, crisp salty air, etc. all help to bring you back closer to nature.

Add-On Activities To Boost The Benefits 

Okay, so you’ve identified your go to nature spots - but what do you actually do once you’re there?

According to this study from the University of Michigan, you only need to spend 20 minutes at your oasis to reap all the benefits you need.

And there are lots of ways you can maximize that 20 minutes beyond just simply walking. All of the add-ons below will further boost the brain benefits of being outside in nature.

1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully aware of your actions and surroundings, being truly in the moment. It’s all about focusing your mind’s attention on the here and now.

What better place to practice this than in a beautiful park or forest?

You don’t need any fancy meditation apps to guide you. In fact, keep your phone in your pocket or bag. Simply make your way through each sense, fully focusing on what you’re picking up.

Whether it’s the smell of the sea, the sound of birds or the breeze caressing your skin, focus your full attention on that one sense for a few minutes, and then move on to the next sense.

You’ll find that you notice way more than you would otherwise and you’ll end the session feeling relaxed, grateful and in awe of nature’s beauty.

2. Practice Gratitude

Double up on the mood-boosting by taking some time to practice gratitude as you sit in your nature spot.

Gratitude has been identified as one of the keys to mental wellbeing and it’s easy to do. Plus, it’s a great trick for triggering happiness.

Take a notebook and pen with you and write out 3-5 things you’re grateful for. It could be anything from a special person in your life to the fact that you’re in good enough health to be able to get to your nature spot in the first place.

Then, read them outloud. Hearing yourself say all things you’re happy about maximizes the feel good vibes.

3. Meditate

If you haven’t meditated before, take a read through our newbie’s guide to meditation. You’ll be amazed at how it heals the mind - no joke.

For newbies and experienced meditators alike, one of the eternal struggles of meditating is finding a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed.

Between noisy offices, loud neighbors, honking traffic and hyperactive kids, it can seem like there isn’t a quiet place anywhere in life.

Taking it to the great outdoors might be the solution you’ve been looking for. There are almost always little pockets or secluded areas away from the crowds where you can turn down the world’s volume and have some quiet time to yourself.

4. Read (but not on your phone)

Similar to meditating, many of us love to read but struggle to fit it into our days. When you’re at home, there’s always something else to do - the laundry, cooking, watching Netflix, mindless scrolling social media, etc.

That’s why being away from all of that can present the perfect opportunity to read that book you bought six months ago and still haven’t opened. Or even more simply, just starting reading, even if it’s just a magazine.

When you’ve got nature as your background soundscape, it’s easy to unplug and digitally detox. It helps soothe your nerves and focus your attention on something that is enjoyable.

5. Exercise

Working out outside takes two things that are great for you and smooshes them together - so it must be doubly great for you right?!

Taking a run through the park or doing some gentle yoga by the sea sounds infinitely better than sharing sweaty treadmills or jumping around in smelly fitness studios, doesn’t it?

Plus, a decent gym these days can cost an arm and a leg. But working out outside with Mother Nature is free!

This doesn’t mean that exercising in nature should be like a crossfit session. You can still get fantastic health benefits from just taking a brisk walk for 20-30 minutes. It’s one of our recommended easy low sweat workouts you can do anywhere.

This kind of simple physical activity stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These brain chemicals play an important part in regulating your mood.

All of these extra add-on activities help to turn your nature walk into true nature therapy, maximizing the benefits and the fun factor.

Chill & Hang Out With Mother Nature

The more we progress as a human race - building robots, digitizing and automating everything - the less connected to our true surroundings we seem to become.

We need to be in nature to survive and thrive. Yet, more and more of our lifestyles and the world at large is going in the opposite direction.

The good news is that we each individually have the power to change this.

It’s up to us to decide not to spend our lives in different boxes and start making a conscious effort to connect more with Mother Nature at the parks, forests, beaches, lakes and rivers that are in our local neighborhoods.

Seemingly small acts, like buying some desk plants or taking a lunch break at the park, can have huge benefits for us.

And once we start, it will be easy to build these positive changes into our daily lives.

So, make the choice today.

Hang out with Mother Nature, take a stroll and chill out.

You’ll be glad you did.

Feel Better,

more on cubicle life