If your go-to break when you’ve finished a work or home task is to scroll through your phone or flip on the TV, trade it for stepping outside. Developing the “nature break habit” has many proven benefits for better health and well-being, including the following:
Enhances moods. Researchers found that just looking at a tree or green space can lift your spirits. Beyond that, spending even a little time out in nature can help lower blood pressure and reduce the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline. While you’re outside, if you take a few slow, deep belly breaths, your pause will be even more restorative!
Promotes clearer vision. Rest your eyes by focusing on the tree line or ridge on the distant horizon for about 20 minutes, if possible. This can help relieve blurry or double vision, red eyes or headaches from staring at computer or phone screens for prolonged periods.
Boosts your attention. Nature offers many clues to slow down, get out of your worrying mind, and into just “being.” Simply pausing to gaze intently at fluttering leaves or the flight of a bee can be an in-the-moment form of meditation, helping you return to your day more focused and refreshed.
Provides a dose of vitamin D. As short as 5 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to your skin may be enough time to allow the sun’s UV rays to help your body produce vitamin D, keeping your bones sturdy and immune system strong, while raising the feel-good hormone serotonin. After that, follow up with good sun protection, like a 30 SPF or higher sunblock. (Ask your doctor how much time you can safely expose your skin to UV rays.)
Increases feeling of social connectedness. Stepping outside brings you in proximity to human contact—whether it’s people running errands, postal workers, dog walkers, or neighbors strolling, this human contact and a sense of community is so important for good mental health.