Being out in nature makes us happy. The research is pretty clear about that.
On average, study participants are significantly and substantially happier outdoors in all green or natural habitat types than they are in urban environments.
Maybe that’s why camping has become the hot new trend among Gen Xers and Millennials. Forty-nine percent of respondents to a new survey said they “love the great outdoors” as their primary reason for camping.
Unfortunately, a three-day camping trip every few months is the nature-getting equivalent of binge-watching five seasons of Parks and Rec in a single weekend. Other research finds that short weekly exposure to nature is a more reliable way to a healthier and happier life.
Two hours of bliss
Researchers in the UK set out to determine how much time outdoors is enough for enhanced well-being. Turns out spending just two hours per week (120 minutes) in areas such as woodlands, beaches, and parks does the trick.
The findings are supported by past research, which has found that living in greener areas is associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, asthma emergencies, mental distress, mortality and even myopia in children. Some have even landed on this 120 minute threshold before.
If you can combine your nature time with exercise, even better. But surprisingly, the health and happiness benefits of nature are not tied to physical activity whatsoever.
Do you even shinrin-yoku, bro?
In Japan, people practice shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. The idea is to focus on connecting with nature through your five senses:
This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.
Some may find this strange, but I’m sold on the well-being that comes from being out in nature. It’s what makes hiking my exercise of choice. Sometimes, I just sit out there for a while — and let the craziness of “civilization” slip away.