Hey there —
Take a look around you. Do your surroundings include any of the following?
✏️ A desk
💻 A computer screen
🪑 An uncomfortable chair
🛋️ A couch with a visible imprint of your body
💡 Artificial lighting
If you can’t remember the last time you breathed fresh air, let the sunshine hit your skin, or logged out of the online world in favor of the real one for more than five minutes…you may want to consider our April challenge to get outside.
(Or as the kids like to say these days — go touch some grass.)
Getting outside every day is something that many of us take for granted. After all, with our remote jobs, Uber Eats, and same-day Amazon delivery, who needs to leave the house? 🏠
When you’ve established the habit of spending the majority of your day indoors, it can be tricky to break out of it. But spending time outdoors might be more important than you think — and it can have a major impact on your overall well-being.
Ming Kuo, a researcher at the University of Illinois who has studied nature’s effect on humans for over 30 years, shares that when people have access to nature, “you see better social functioning. You see better psychological functioning and better physical health.”
That’s because Kuo’s studies, among others, have shown that spending time in nature:
Increases empathy and cooperation
Boosts happiness and resiliency
Sharpens focus and attention
Improves blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Strengthens your immune system (including boosting anti-cancer proteins)
Significantly lowers stress
Reduces depression and anxiety
Psychologist Ethan Kross highlights such studies in his book Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It, noting that the positive effects of nature may also offer us a way to foster positive internal dialogue and fight our negative inner critic.
“These findings raise a fascinating possibility that the internal conversations we have with ourselves are influenced by the physical spaces we navigate in our daily lives. And if we make smart choices about how we relate to our surroundings, they can help us control our inner voice.”
Clearly, there’s a reason we go outside when we need to “clear our head.” 🍃
And there’s one more added benefit to making a habit of getting outdoors. If you’re an overachiever who has failed at sticking with new routines because you try to do all the things, only to burn out, this is a great opportunity to build a healthy concurrent habit — allowing you to do more without running yourself into the ground.
For example, if you also want to focus on your physical health, make your time outside active, like a walk, hike, or bike ride. Or if you want to focus on your mental and/or emotional health, make it a quiet, meditative moment. Think of it as a two-for-one deal!
So what are you waiting for? Vanquish your inner vampire and get outside. The grass is greener on the other side of whatever screen you’re reading this on. 😉 ☘️
Participate in the challenge!
Daily action: Every day for the next 30 days, spend 15 minutes outside.
To help you track your progress, download this printable Habit Tracker to mark off each day you get outdoors.
And after you’ve finished the challenge, fill out this Challenge Reflection to look back at your experience, take note of what you learned, and decide if this is a habit you want to make a permanent part of your routine.
Tips for success
🪟 Do what you can. If you don’t have easy access to green spaces (or time to get there during the week), focus on simply stepping outside your home or office. Look up at the clouds, take some deep breaths, and feel the breeze from your front steps, porch, or sidewalk. Then consider hitting up a local park, beach, or hiking trail over the weekend for maximum nature impact.
🗓️ Put it on your calendar. It’s the end of a busy day, and just as you’re crawling into bed, you realize you forgot about your new habit. (It happens to all of us!) Make intentional space and block off those 15 outdoor minutes on your calendar — and set a reminder while you’re at it. While stargazing is a great outdoor activity, you don’t want to miss out on the benefits of actual sunlight (get that vitamin D!).
✅❌ Set technology dos and don'ts. We definitely recommend taking the opportunity to fully disconnect and let your mind wander. But if you want to combine your outdoor time with learning or connection (or you’re not comfortable leaving the house without your phone), at least establish some boundaries. Do: listen to an audiobook or call a friend to catch up while you walk around your neighborhood. Don’t: scroll Instagram from a park bench. Tuck away that screen and look up!
Learn more (and find your moment of outdoor zen)
Our better nature: How the great outdoors can improve your life
By NPR’s Hidden Brain
Dive deeper into the power of nature with Ming Kuo on this episode of NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast. 🌿
In her conversation with host Shankar Vedantam, Kuo shares how her research on the “dark side” of the environment brought her to the discovery of just how important nature and green spaces are, and how getting intentional about our environment can help us become our best selves.
The fascinating data she's uncovered in her research (like how more trees in a neighborhood = less crime) may surprise you — and make you pay a little more attention to how green (or not so green) the spaces around you are.
How to meditate outdoors
By Jenni Gritters
Bring a little more purpose and intention to your time outside with these three meditation exercises that will help you tune into your surroundings (even if you’re just walking around your neighborhood).
It’s a great way to clear your mind and be more present (and the walking meditation is a great choice if you want to practice mindfulness, but have a hard time sitting still).🚶
Written by Ashley Martin
Edited by Matt D'Avella