Most Americans agree that spending time outdoors can enhance their physical and mental health. A recent online survey, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Humana among over 2,000 US adults, reveals that Americans believe spending time outdoors can reduce stress (75 percent), benefit mental well-being (74 percent) and lead to living a longer, healthier life (63 percent).
The benefits of spending time in nature include elevated mood and happiness, as well as improved cardiovascular health, but work and other obligations often get in the way. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans will spend an average almost 93 percent of their lives in an indoor space.
Humana’s partnership with the National Park’s Centennial celebration encourages everyone to enjoy America’s national parks as a resource to help stay healthy and active, and increase their Nature Engagement Levels, or N.E.L.s. N.E.Ls are a way to assess how much time you spend outside. A fun National Geographic Quiz, sponsored by Humana, shows participants their level of engagement with nature: Are you overflowing with flowing streams or running low on lowlands?
Try these ideas to raise your N.E.L.s:
Start with a Sunrise: Watching the sunrise can be a beautiful, moving, and healthy way to start your day; benefits include balanced circadian rhythms, improved mood, and increased Vitamin D levels.
Bring Nature to Work: Enjoy the health benefits of the outdoors at work by placing a plant on your desk or setting a nature view as your desktop background. Host outdoor meetings, or “walk and talks,” around your building, and boost colleagues’ moods and focus, too.
Engage Your Mind: Get your mental exercise by visiting museums or monuments within the National Park System. Sites such as the Thomas Edison National Historical Park offer guided tours and interactive experiences to entertain and educate visitors.
Eat Outdoors: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend an average of 8 hours and 13 minutes a week preparing and eating food. Move your meals outside to unplug and enjoy your food in a new environment.
Try growing some of your own food. Getting your hands in dirt connects you to nature. If space is tight, explore a community garden.
Take a Hike: Avid hikers report high levels of happiness, fulfillment, and connection with the world around them, and studies have shown that the color green increases motivation to engage in rigorous activity. So, if being outside on a spring day inspires you to hike, find a trail in a nearby state or national park!