10 Minutes Outside Can Have a Meaningful Impact

As we get older, daily stress can increase for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you’re caring for a loved one or experiencing a change in your life, such as losing a loved one or changing your career. Perhaps you’re struggling with health complications of your own. Or maybe you’re just experiencing the everyday stressors of life. Either way, it’s no secret that Americans are stressed these days. However, there is strong evidence that one of the best ways to combat stress is outside your front door.

Spending time outdoors, especially in green spaces, has been shown to impact stress positively. A 2019 study found that cortisol levels (measured in saliva) decreased significantly after spending time in nature.

Another study found that just 10 minutes in nature helped college students feel happier and reduced physical and mental stress effects.

There are lots of ways that being outdoors can increase your mental health: 

Reduces stress.

Spending time outdoors calms our minds and leads to a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure.

Gives you a new perspective.

A change of environment, even for a short time, can help you see things differently. If you’re going through a difficult time, there’s nothing better than taking a few minutes and leaving the situation behind. And spending time in nature helps us focus more on the world than putting our problems into perspective.

Improves mood and reduces anxiety.

Studies have shown that 20 minutes in nature can improve mood and reduce anxiety.

Improves your sleep.

Melatonin, the hormone produced for sleep, is usually triggered by darkness. That’s why you may feel sleepy in a dark room, even during the day. But sunlight suppresses melatonin and helps you stay fresh and alert during the day, making it easier to fall asleep at night.

Improves physical health and makes you more active.

When you walk or jog outside, you naturally benefit from physical health. But did you know that exercising in nature is easier than exercising indoors?

How to get outside more often than usual?

Do you think you don’t have time to get outside? You don’t have to schedule hours of walking to reap the benefits of spending time outdoors. (Although those are great, too!). Even short stints in the fresh air – on breaks at work, a quick walk around the block with the dog – are helpful. Here are some good ways to spend more time outdoors:

Change your commute.

Are you close enough to walk or bike to work? Not only is this a great way to make your commute more environmentally friendly, but it’ll also help you automatically schedule time outdoors each day. Do you live too far from work to put this into practice? Try parking farther away, even several blocks, to spend time outdoors on both ends of your workday.

It’s all a matter of scheduling.

Find a way to incorporate some outdoor time into your day regularly. Start your morning with a walk, or take a walk when you get home from work. Find a quiet place to walk during your lunch break, or simply sit on a park bench and meditate. Make outdoor time a part of your daily routine.

Take what you can get.

You may wonder how you, as a city dweller, can get all the beneficial vibes of nature. While studies have shown that spending time in a green environment has a more positive effect than being in the city, any time spent outdoors is good. You can also get creative and find ways to appreciate nature. You can still find a city park or garden even if you don’t live near a forest. Look around at what’s available in your city and explore!

Take your meals outdoors!

Eat your breakfast on the porch or balcony. Have a picnic lunch or dinner. Or find a restaurant with an outdoor dining area.

Get a puppy.

Dogs are a great excuse to spend time outdoors! Take your dog for a 5-10 minute walk a few times a day.

Take your work outside with you.

Do you have an ongoing conference call that you could take on the road? Or meetings you could hold outside? Think about how you can move some of your daily work outside. Your colleagues will surely thank you for it!

Plant some flowers.

Gardening is a great way to spend time outdoors and connect with nature, and it can have many other benefits (like beautiful landscaping or delicious homegrown vegetables).

Plan a walk or outdoor workout with friends.

An outdoor walk is always easier when you have a friend with you. Not only will it keep you focused, but you’ll also benefit from spending time with someone you like.