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Happy By Nature

Three proven ways to enjoy the health benefits of the great outdoors.

October 28th, 2011

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Happy By Nature

It was the third day of my bachelor party camping trip. We were in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, and something was starting to happen to me.

At first, concerns about my psychological research projects and my wedding to-do list captured my attention, distracting me from the beauty of the lake and forest surrounding our campsite.

However, after just a few days away from modern civilization, the rejuvenating effect of nature filled me with serenity and comfort. The gentle breeze off the lake kept me cool. The fresh air made every breath a pleasure. And the stars, brighter than any I had ever seen, filled me with awe. I began to wonder what it would be like to stay immersed in nature.

COLUMN: Nature: A Magic Pill for Health & Beauty

Is my modern lifestyle missing a critical ingredient?

Today, we enjoy the comfort of indoor living. When it gets too hot, we turn on the air conditioning; when it rains, we have a roof to shelter us. Without the sanctuary of our homes and other buildings, we would often be uncomfortable and unable to fulfill our daily responsibilities. But have we drifted too far away from nature? How might we benefit from a daily effort to experience the great outdoors?

A large amount of research suggests that there is a strong relationship between feeling connected to nature and a variety of desirable outcomes including satisfaction with life, close relationships with others, self-acceptance and feeling positive emotions. If you spend most of your time indoors, there are many ways to make nature a bigger part of your life. Here are some ways you can experience the benefits of Mother Earth:

"Walden" by Henry David Thoreau

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

1. Take a walk. One experiment found that a mere 15 minute walk led to feelings of enthusiasm, aliveness and positive emotions, compared to taking a walk indoors. Whether you prefer brisk morning air, the full intensity of the sun, or a cool evening breeze, spending just a few minutes outside can have a great impact on your day.

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