Back to Nature

Back to Nature

We understand that there are real barriers to making nature exposure a part of your week. Our modern world is set up to make it easier to view a forest through the screen of a smartphone than it is to actually have a physical experience in nature. Nature can seem like a waste of time when compared to extra hours working in the office or spent at home, but in reality nature gives you a leg up—on creativity, on your stress levels, and by providing a stabilizing influence on a frazzled brain. Nature is the counterbalance to our hectic lives.

If, despite the recommendations in Brain Wash, you’re still struggling to incorporate nature exposure into your week, here are a few additional ways to make things easier.

The 10-minute power-up: This is a way of quickly incorporating some vitamin N into your day. All you need is 10 minutes and an outdoor location with some foliage (even a parking lot will do). Set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes and turn on airplane mode. Then wander around the trees and other plants for the duration of the 10 minutes. We suggest finding a place to sit and listen to whatever natural sounds are present. This can be as subtle as wind rustling through the leaves of a tree or a faint birdcall. This activity gets even better when you’re able to get sunlight on your skin and synthesize a bit of vitamin D in the process!

Move the meeting outside! In medical training, we would occasionally have lectures outside the hospital, where the incredible trees of the Pacific Northwest surrounded us. These were always among my favorite lectures. As it turns out, hosting an occasional lesson outside may actually improve performance. In a 2018 study, students who had lessons in nature performed better in later classroom sessions than those who remained inside. The study’s authors found that “lessons in nature may actually leave students more able to engage in the next lesson.” This same concept could apply to adults. If you work at a company that has frequent meetings or didactic sessions, pitch the idea of doing the next one outdoors!

Outdoor conversations: Engaging in a productive, meaningful conversation is one of the best ways to foster connection with other people. It just so happens that having conversations in nature may foster better communication. In a 2018 study, the conversations between parents and children were found to be of higher quality when they took place in a natural as opposed to manmade environment. If you’re already planning to catch up with a friend or family member, try meeting at a park or other nature-rich setting. I will often plan phone conversations and then wander around somewhere with trees and plants while I’m on the phone (I find having headphones is really helpful for this).

Not sure where to get started with all of this? Here are some of our recommended tools:
RootsRated – A platform of outdoor experiences, hand-picked by local outdoor retailers and their networks of local experts.
NatureFind – Listings of outdoor places and events in your area.
The Outbound – Finding outdoor adventures in your neighborhood.
TrailLink – Listing of abandoned rail lines that have been reclaimed as trails.

Dr. Perlmutter is one of the leading lights in medicine today, illuminating the path for solving chronic illness

Mark Hyman, MD