From going sans shoes in the grass to taking your om outside, these simple strategies will help improve your physical and mental health
Look at the Ocean
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According to a new study published in the journal Health & Place, living in a place with views of the ocean (defined as visibility of blue space) can improve mental health by helping to lower levels of psychological distress. BRB—we're booking our next beach vacay.
Go Barefoot In the Grass
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A 2013 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that "grounding" or "earthing" (direct physical contact with the surface of the earth) can reduce blood viscosity and therefore may be one of the simplest ways to reduce cardiovascular risk. And a 2012 review found that getting in touch with the electrons on the earth's surface can also help with pain management, stress, and sleep. Barefoot picnics, here we come!
Take a Walk In the Park
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A Stanford-led study published last year found that taking a walk in nature can actually change the brain. People who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area (as opposed to a high-traffic urban setting) showed decreased activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for depression. (More on that here: How Hiking Can Help Depression.)
Take Your Workout Outside
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Here's some motivation to swap that spin class for a bike ride in the park or take your om outdoors: One multi-study review published in Environmental Science & Technology found that compared with exercising indoors, working out in a natural environment can lead to increases in revitalization and energy and a decrease in tension, confusion, anger, and depression. Another 2013 study found that "green exercise" can restore mental fatigue, improve mood and self-esteem, and help to increase overall physical activity levels. (Psst... Here are six more better-body benefits of taking your workout outdoors!)
Take Up Gardening
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Not only is growing your own fresh fruits and veggies great for your diet, but gardening has also known to be a major stress reliever and way to improve mental clarity. In fact, long-term research has shown that gardening can help lower the risk of developing dementia—one new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease showed it can help slash the risk in half. And another study showed that gardening can prolong life in older adults by cutting the risk of heart attack and stroke. Time to get your hands dirty! (Here, First-Time Gardening Tips to Find Your Green Thumb.)
Try Forest Bathing
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This sounds weirder than it really is—all you have to do is immerse yourself in the woods and remain mindful as you let the healing benefits take over. The Japanese trend of 'forest bathing' or Shinrin-yoku has been around since the 1980s and is known to help counter stress and fight degenerative illnesses such as heart disease. And even if you don't have time to fully 'immerse' yourself, a 2013 study also found that even a short-term viewing of forest landscapes can have physiological relaxing effects such as lowered blood pressure and heart rate.
Look at a Nature Picture
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Yep—you don't even technically need to go outside to reap the benefits. A study published last year in Environment and Behavior found that watching a video of a natural environment (compared to a video of a busy city street) can help to improve memory. A University of Michigan study also found that interacting with nature for just an hour (by either walking in a park or even viewing pictures of nature) can help improve memory and attention.