Which of these situations sounds more appealing to you: Taking a walk outdoors or strolling through the office? Unless you’ve got a tricked-out workplace with an espresso machine and a ping-pong table, we’re going to assume you chose the former.
So why exactly does hanging out in nature make us so happy? Turns out, it’s not just our adoration for foliage that leaves us feeling Zen—being outside can actually offer relief for everything from depression to negativity. Here, a few more reasons to take an extra-long lunch today, or a walk after dinner.
It can ease depression
According to a study from the University of Michigan, group nature walks are linked to enhanced mental health and positivity, as well as significantly lower levels of depression and feelings of stress. Had a particularly hard day? Grab a friend or your significant other for a post-work mood booster.
It may improve your outlook
If you’re dreading the thought of spending another workout chained to the treadmill, move your run outdoors for a quick burst of happiness. A study from Glasgow University showed that people who walked, biked, or ran in nature had a lower risk of poor mental health than people who worked out indoors.
It could improve your focus
Can’t decide where to go on your next weekend getaway? You might want to consider a trip to the countryside. According to a study published in Psychological Science, interacting with nature gives your brain a break from everyday overstimulation, which can have a restorative effect on your attention levels.
It can strengthen your immunity
Fun fact: The latest get-healthy pill isn’t found it in your medicine cabinet—it’s in your backyard. Researchers at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School found that women who spent six hours in the woods over the course of two days had an increase in virus- and tumor-fighting white blood cells, and the boost lasted at least seven days afterwards.
...But you can also fake it
Of course, we can’t always find the time to spend hours lounging in the grass. Luckily, you can still reap some brain-boosting benefits without leaving your house. According to a study in the Korean Journal of Radiology, people who were shown pictures of scenic, natural landscapes had heightened activity in areas of the brain associated with recall of happy memories compared to people shown urban landscapes. So put some outdoor shots at your desk or set them as your monitor background for some help in a pinch.