By Deyala El-Haddad, DC EcoWomen member and Liveamongchic blog author
Going outside for a walk or hike and getting some fresh air can positively impact your mental and physical health and science has told us that being outdoors and in nature can significantly improve your overall health and happiness.
Here are a few benefits to being outside and surrounding yourself with nature:
Being outside and in nature can help decrease stress and anxiety.
Going for walks in the sunshine can increase your intake of vitamin D, which can reduce symptoms of depression.
Being outdoors in natural light can help regulate your body’s natural clock, which in turn improves sleep patterns.
Being in nature can help ground you in a meditative state by being present and in the moment.
Going on long walks and hikes can help reduce high blood pressure and can improve blood circulation, digestion, sciatica, and overall health and well-being.
Finding the Time
This all sounds great, so why not step outside and enjoy these benefits? We tend to focus so much on our day-to-day tasks that we forget to check in with ourselves and connect with nature. We tend to make excuses for ourselves as to why we don’t go outside and we’re all guilty of saying things like: “I’m too busy” or “I’m too exhausted after a long day of work.” If you’re too busy or crammed at work, try to schedule 15-30 minutes a day for walking around outside. This could be at the beginning of your lunch break, towards the end, or after work to unwind.
One other thing that I’ve noticed that I’m guilty of doing is spending too much time on my iPhone, social media, games and gadgets. I end up spending so much time without even realizing that I just scrolled for a good 20 minutes! That could have been time spent walking around outside! We are so busy with our gadgets and technology that we are forgetting the outside world. A good solution is to unplug or limit your screen time. Go to your phone settings and set time limits for how long you can use an app per day.
We also feel so overwhelmed by living in a congested city filled with commuters, buses, cars and buildings that we don’t know where to get that nature fix. A few things you can do is look up parks, hikes or trails near you on Google maps! You could walk around your neighborhood before or after work and plan to visit a trail or little park close to your home or work. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could do a hiking trip to Shenandoah National Park or to the Blue Ridge Mountains during the weekend with friends and family.
A few great hiking trails and nature walks that are within a 20-mile radius include:
Long Bridge Park
Windy Run Park
Potomac Overlook Regional Park
Theodore Roosevelt Island
United States National Arboretum
Making it Fun
Bring your headphones and listen to music, a podcast, NPR or even an audio book.
Bring a friend, your kids, or work buddy!
Pay attention to your surroundings and appreciate the little things like clouds, trees, flowers, insects and small animals.
Keep a step tracker and see how far you can go!
Do an art walk and take creative photos of interesting plants along the way.
Remember to wear sunscreen, bring water and snacks, wear good gripping or hiking shoes with ankle support, go with a buddy, don’t touch any plants or ivy and don’t turn up your music too loud!
Deyala El-Haddad has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science and is a firm believer in environmental preservation and conservation. Some of her previous environmental work includes interning for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond. Her experience spans within non-profit organizations as well as government contracting services. In her spare time Deyala enjoys hiking, traveling, yoga and blogging for her website liveamongchic and for DC EcoWomen.