How much time do you spend in the great outdoors? Research shows Americans spend 92% of their time indoors these days and our mental and physical health are taking a hit because of it. Being out in nature comes with all kinds of benefits, including making you stronger and happier and there’s even a nature pyramid to help us understand how much time we need in the fresh air to get results.
The nature pyramid is like the food pyramid, but instead of recommendations for what to eat, it recommends the amount of time we should be spending in nature to lower stress and be healthier. The “20-5-3” rule breaks down the nature pyramid like this:
- 20 minutes - This is the bottom of the pyramid and the amount of time we should spend outside in nature, like at a neighborhood park, three times a week. A new study finds something as easy as a 20-minute stroll through a botanical garden can boost memory, cognition and feelings of well-being. But put your phone away because the study shows people who used their phones on the walk didn’t see any of the benefits.
- Five hours - This is the minimum amount of time you should spend in semi-wild nature, like a state park forest, every month. Getting into wilder spots seems to offer more benefits, according to research from Finland. It finds that city dwellers feel better with at least five hours of nature a month and benefits increase as the time increases. After that time in semi-wild nature, folks reported feeling more relaxed, restored and less stressed.
- Three days - At the top of the pyramid is three days a year we should spend off the grid in nature, like camping or renting a cabin. Imagine wild animals and spotty cell service and that’s where you need to be. This wildest dose of nature can boost creativity and problem-solving and relieve burnout in three days, according to a study of U.S. military vets. After a white-water rafting trip, the veterans' stress levels were down 21%, PTSD symptoms were down by 29% and their relationships, happiness and general satisfaction all improved, too.
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