Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
16 Aug

The Rich and Measurable Benefits of Spending More Time in Nature

sunsetAnyone outside as they’re reading this? Who’s wishing they were? (I imagine there are many heads nodding.) It’s a natural human instinct, this pining away at the office window, this emotional itch to break out, and finally the luxuriant relief to be in the open again. The fact is, we’re never so much at home as we are in the outdoors. Nature was the context and logic for all of human evolution. Temporary shelters and caves aside, our nomadic hunter-gatherer ancestors lived their full lives under the big sky. They developed complex skills and even aesthetic preferences adaptive to surviving in the natural world. Increasingly, research illuminates the deep-reaching legacy of our natural roots. Studies support what Primal intuition has known all along: there are rich and measurable benefits to being in nature.

Think about all the times you’ve spent outdoors in your life. Beyond the mere comings and goings of the day, when have you been present in nature largely for its own sake? Some of us are hikers, some hunters. Some love to camp or sit on the beach. A few are tree climbers, a few mountain climbers. Some relish the chance to photograph the perfect sunset or the local wildlife. We’re alternately runners, walkers, kayakers, and playground enthusiasts. Many among us head outdoors for adventure while others prefer to lose themselves in the quiet observation of a river’s flow. We follow different purposes but ultimately feed a common instinct.

We know how we feel in these encounters. We’re calm, exhilarated, fortified, restored, still. The effects are more than emotional, however, and the significance more than personal. Modern medicine is beginning to catch on to the use of nature in healing and maintaining health. It’s part of growing attention to therapeutic lifestyle practices, basic activities that demonstrate health related benefits. In fact, there’s a movement taking root across the globe – from Norway to Japan, from New Mexico to North Carolina – to prescribe nature. Though the details and incentive vary considerably, physicians are partnering with national, state, or local park organizations to encourage their patients to use the opportunity for exercise and immersion in nature to better their health.

It’s with good reason. On the physical side, time in nature is associated with a welcome decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and sympathetic nerve activity. There’s the dramatic increase of anti-cancer protein expression and natural killer cells to fight off infection and cancer growth. To boot, exercising outdoors in green – or better yet green and “blue” (body of water) – space enhances the gains of each workout. Subjects in studies report greater revitalization, increased energy, and more positive engagement, along with less depression, anger, confusion, and tension when they exercised outdoors in comparison with indoor workouts.

Then there are the other mental benefits, including the overall reduction in stress as well as cognitive advantages such as the replenishing of voluntary attention that enhance connectivity in the brain and allows us to focus efficiently. And don’t forget the opportunity to experience deep joy and transcendental connectedness. It’s a shame we can’t all be outside right now.

Moreover, it appears from the totality of research that time in nature most powerfully nurtures us when we’re most “at risk” – of disease, depression, or desperation. Studies have illuminated measurable physiological progress (e.g. fewer surgical related complications, decreased use of pain medication, and shorter hospital stays) and greater emotional well-being when patients frequent hospital gardens like the amazing Prouty Garden of Children’s Hospital in Boston (which may be eliminated to make space for other clinical facilities) or simply have a “green” view in their rooms (PDF). Time in open natural space drastically reduces the symptoms of ADHD and behavioral disorders in children. Wilderness therapy has been instrumental in abuse and addiction recovery models (PDF). Immersion in nature can offer an emotional release for many, while the challenge of outdoor adventures can act as a turning point in regaining trust and self-esteem.

Nature therapies, especially surf therapy, are now supported by a number of military related nonprofits to help many returning soldiers transition to civilian life and to cope with trauma and disability resulting from their combat experiences. As the foundation director of one ocean therapy organization explains, “Surfing [can be] a catalyst, where after injury, the Marine may feel damaged or unable to complete his mission. After surfing and gaining that renewed confidence, some of the participants show a renewed vision towards the future and begin to set goals and engage with their families again.”

The truth is, many of us can benefit from the open, elemental space nature offers to re-envision ourselves, our lives, and our relationships. Outside the roles and routines of daily life, we can encounter what’s most essential in our selves and others. We can let go of everything but a momentary, wild awareness. In doing so, we can release the pain or heaviness we’ve been carrying. We can unblock the channels for feeling and relating. Unbound by physical and emotional distraction, we can be more present for our children, partners, and other loved ones (PDF).

There’s both physical and emotional power in returning to what is most essential in ourselves. In nature, we find congruence – the biological and psychic synchronicity that directed our evolution. We’re nurtured within this ancient set point, the origin for a potent path to healing and vitality.

Thanks for reading today, everyone. Let me know your thoughts about how nature has influenced your well-being. Have a great end to the week, and get outside!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Mark, I was hiking part of the appalachian trail and we came across a thru hiker who told us about another thru hiker they had met earlier in their journey who was completely primal, even on the trail. She said that he ordered jerky, nuts and dried fruit that was delivered to him at certain stops along his journey through the trail. Crazy stuff, but really cool!

    Max Ungar wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • Hey Max,
      Where were you hiking this Appalachian Trail? Me and my buddy just hike the Manistee River Trail in MI this past weekend. 23 miles in 1.5 day. Loved it. Reason I ask is that next year we wanted to do an Appalachian hike. Wondering if you have any favorite places that we could check out? Thanks.

      Graham wrote on August 16th, 2012
      • I hiked from the Pennsylvania-Maryland line down to harpers ferry. Its about 41 miles. We did it in around 3 days but, I would suggest taking a 4th day if you really want to enjoy yourself. Their are some really nice lookouts and really beautiful woodsy trails. You can also stay in the public shelters (they aren’t too gross) if you dont want to bring a tent. But, it’s a really great hike. Definitely recommended.

        Max Ungar wrote on August 16th, 2012
        • Thanks Max. I appreciate it. I will check it out. Have a good one.

          Graham wrote on August 16th, 2012
        • Haha “Have a good one.” You must have read A Walk in the Woods

          Zach Rusk wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • I can’t get enough of the area you are speaking of. Have you also been to Lake Michigan Recreation Area near Nordhouse Dunes? It is south of Manistee. I camp there regularly in the woods along the 2 track. Taking the family over Labor Day Weekend. Am anxious.

      Pam wrote on August 16th, 2012
      • Haven’t been up there, but its definitely a new goal of mine!

        Max Ungar wrote on August 16th, 2012
        • Max,
          On the southern portion of the AT,
          beware of toothless guys sitting on a porch, playing banjos.

          Fred wrote on August 16th, 2012
        • Max and Pam,
          Also check out Isle Royale. I heard its absolutely beautiful. The whole island is in Michigan’s UP surrounded by Lake Superior and is all National Forest. Only camping and Hiking. That is on my hiking list as well.

          Graham wrote on August 17th, 2012
        • Hey guys, also check out the Ice Age Trail in WI. 1200 miles, only about 50 people or so have thru-hiked it. Its gorgeous.

          Lora wrote on August 17th, 2012
    • WOW! that’s AMAZING!

      doghug wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • Wicked cool!!! I’ve loved to hike the Appalachian one day too. Now I’m just gonna hit up spots in Arizona first. My training goal now is to hike the GC up and down in one day next year :)

      Gift clumsywarrior wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • I’ve done some reenactments where everything was done the old way (not quite Neanderthal, but old), even food and clothing while on treks in the woods…it’s very satisfying.

      Cathy Johnson (Kate) wrote on August 16th, 2012
  2. I must be the only person in the world who would rather live underground or in a high-tech bunker. The outdoors pretty much holds no draw for me. I have never once looked out my (home) office window. Nature is itchy and boring for me. Urban hiking (sight-seeing) is nice in exotic places, but that’s about it for me personally.

    Rachel wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • I have a friend who used to say the same thing. Yosemite was the cure. Have you been to one of our great national parks?

      Dan wrote on August 16th, 2012
      • I have been to Joshua Tree, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Acadia, Zion, Grand Canyon, and Rocky Mountain.

        Rachel wrote on August 16th, 2012
        • And those places did nothing for you? Not that urban hiking bad or anything. But for me, anywhere new is “exotic.” I took off yesterday and explored the new B-Line hike-bike path in Bloomington, Indiana just to see what was there. Fun day!

          Dan wrote on August 16th, 2012
  3. That’s it, I quit! See you on the Appalachian Trail.

    Groktimus Primal wrote on August 16th, 2012
  4. When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, I was outside every day for as many hours as I could escape housework and inside duties. We lived in a national forest and I would just walk for hours. It was amazing.

    Now that I’m in the deep south and most days are over 90 degrees and 50% humidity for 9 months of the year, I stare out the window and cry.

    But winter’s coming!! YAY!

    Mamachibi wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • I totally hear you (I’m a Houstonite). I daydream about cool weather and hikes in the White Mountains.
      At least our winters are pleasant!

      Abbe wrote on August 16th, 2012
      • As a fellow Hustonian, I could not agree more. I am so excited for October so I can be outside again!

        Tiffany D. wrote on August 16th, 2012
        • Ah, Houston. 95 deg 95% humidity.
          When I lived there, I canned my air conditioner. It *sucks* for about 3 days, then you get used to it. Yep, windows open at night (MAKE SURE YOUR SCREENS ARE INTACT!!!!)
          Problem with Houston is that EVERYwhere else you go, the A/C is set to about 65 degrees.

          Tom wrote on August 17th, 2012
        • Do you guys know of any Houston-area Primal groups? I am new to the area.

          Lora wrote on August 17th, 2012
      • Dude, I get ya. Even though I live in Florida the beach isn’t always accessible. Kayaking is awesome and early morning bike tides are the cure to the blinding humidity…for me at least.

        Dave wrote on August 18th, 2012
    • Two winters ago I used to start almost every day (after enjoying breakfast or coffee/tea over some websurfing) taking my dog out for an hour or so hike through snow in fields and forests. It was very enjoyable and often set my mood for the day. I’d wear outfits thermal enough just to keep me from being too cold as long as I kept moving (usually track pants and a sweatshirt with a winter hat, sometimes gloves or mitts) and would often return to the house with my clothes covered in ice, and ice lining the inside of my running shoes. Sometimes my hair even had a little ice in it. Stepping in the door and starting to warm up was like having a drink – an immediate relaxing glowing feeling. I’d brew a bunch of tea and then enjoy some guiltless laziness, if more exercise wasn’t required for the day.
      The dog loved these adventures too. No matter the time of year if she saw me putting my shoes on she’d come bounding to the door and would try to fight her way out if I was trying to go alone. I’d have to open the door a crack and slip out; I’m sure many of you have done the same.

      Animanarchy wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • I totally get that. I live 2 hrs. west of Seattle – an escapee from the hot San Joaquin valley (Sacramento), and don’t miss it a bit. It’s beautiful here all year round. Though right now we’re having a heat wave. It’s all of about 83 deg., usually in the 60′s – 70′s. Purrrfect!

      Candi wrote on August 17th, 2012
    • I’m from socal and thinking of moving to the pac northwest some day possibly oregon. Where did you live?

      Tyler wrote on August 18th, 2012
  5. I was camping with the family last weekend. We had a nice campfire in the evenings and mornings. It struck me that sitting around a campfire is a unique part of the human experience that humans – and only humans – have been doing for the last million years. Being out in nature and staring into the embers of a campfire connects us all across that vast span of time.

    And the smoke kept the bugs down a bit!

    Rand wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • This reminds me of a dream I had a little while ago in which I alternated between a participant and an ethereal spectator. It was a primal setting: a clearing in sort of a jungle, with one side of the landscape dropping slowly off with some curving cliffs one on side in the distance and more jagged cliffs on the other. It was night and the sky was mostly clear and deep blue, as if it was still early in the night. There were some thin clouds illuminated by moonlight and many bright stars were visible. In the center of the scene was a wide volcanic pit, maybe 8 feet across, and flames leaped out from it like a small campfire. Occasionally a huge burst of fire would erupt.
      There were three “cavemen” there and I was one of them part of the time. The other time I just watched without a body from a floating vantage point, and at times I felt like I was both one of the men and a ghostly spectator, like during an out of body experience. All three were standing near the pit, mesmerized by the fire while joyously passing and puffing a crude primitive blunt. The man I was in possession of got really stoned and decided to walk around the pit to the other side, then impulsively did a thrill-seeking standing backwards leap over it, drawing guffaws from his companions, and then the three continued to enjoy the spectacle of the night and the fire.

      Animanarchy wrote on August 16th, 2012
  6. Hey Mark,
    Where were you hiking this Appalachian Trail? Me and my buddy just hike the Manistee River Trail in MI this past weekend. 23 miles in 1.5 day. Loved it. Reason I ask is that next year we wanted to do an Appalachian hike. Wondering if you have any favorite places that we could check out? Thanks.

    Mark,
    Enjoyed the post as well. It is amazing how much better you feel when you put yourself in an outdoor setting. Like I just mentioned before I just did a 23 mile loop in MI this past weekend. Calm, beautiful and worth every minute of it.

    Graham wrote on August 16th, 2012
  7. Please pardon me while I get on my soap box for a minute.

    I believe primal folks would benefit greatly from getting more political, especially at the local level.

    When I hear people say they don’t like being outside, I wonder what their city is like. Can they walk down the street without fear of being run over? Does it have clean parks? Are there bike lanes that actually go places?

    Clean and walker friendly cities don’t happen by chance. They require conscience decisions by people who value high quality of life. Endless books have been written on the subject; urban planners know how to take even the most neglected/blighted suburban greyfield and turn it into a gem where people want to be. It just takes political will and political will is fueled by citizen support.

    Walkscore, Congress for the New Urbanism, Urban Land Institute, American League of Bicyclists, Walkonomics….these are all good places to start. Most cities have local chapters groups like these too.

    Finally, make sure your elected officials, and planning, zoning and redevelopment officials know, that you value walkability in your town.

    Dan wrote on August 16th, 2012
  8. Totally agree, Dan. Access to green space has been shown to lower crime rates as well. We all stand to benefit as individuals and communities when our towns/cities are more livable. I feel for children who don’t have access to green space in their daily life.

    Jen wrote on August 16th, 2012
  9. Let’s see, over two weeks of over 100 degree weather (topped out at 111 in Fresno, 30 miles from here…108 here.) I get my exercise early in the morning, just about sunrise, a 2-1/2 mile walk in hill country. I see deer, quail, acorn woodpeckers, an occasional coyote. But after that, I limit my time outdoors and thank God we live in a modern society with electricty and air-conditioning.

    D. M. Mitchell wrote on August 16th, 2012
  10. P.S. For those of you who don’t know what rural California is like in the summer: Basically, we have a drought all summer long, with extremely little to no rain, except for way up in the Sierra Nevadas. All the grass and weeds are dead, brown, and more-or-less, fire tinder. Of course the Valley Oak, Blue Oak, Bull Pine, and other drought hardy trees and bushes are green to some extent. This year many of the Blue Oaks have dropped their leaves and have gone dormant, waiting for the fall and winter rains.

    D. M. Mitchell wrote on August 16th, 2012
  11. I get a type of headache that can last for days, sometimes even weeks, my dr calls it an atypical something or other. The ONLY thing that makes it tolerable is a long, slow stroll in the woods on a nice trail. After about 45 minutes, I get relief that can sometimes last for a couple of days. Better than any med!

    Karen wrote on August 16th, 2012
  12. I often take a ferry to work, across the San Francisco bay. Even when the weather is overcast and cold, I like to stand outside at the railing and feel the wind and watch the water and seagulls. It peps me up better than a cup of coffee. My fellow passengers look at me like I’m nuts, but why would I want to skip the one opportunity I have to truly be outside on a work day?

    Of course, I do end up with Bride of Frankenstein hair by the end of the ride, but it’s a small price to pay.

    BonzoGal wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • [At your first sentence]: Phrasing!

      Sterling wrote on August 16th, 2012
  13. I enjoy a balance, although many might think it’s an un-balance. I like my electronics and spend a lot of time with them. But I actually probably get outside more than the average person. When I take my breaks at work 95% of the time I go outside for a walk while others just stay inside in the breakroom. I often take afternoon bike rides on the weekends, and late night walks during the week. But all of this is done in essentially a concrete jungle. There’s not a lot of nature around me, and that’s all I have to work with.

    Sarah A wrote on August 16th, 2012
  14. I’m fortunate to live right next to what is called The Bay Trail in California. My weekends are for nice long walks outside. I love seeing the Bay, the shore birds, and yes, even the commuter trains that go by along the bay shoreline. It’s my favorite thing to do on the weekend. My “me” time.

    Lea wrote on August 16th, 2012
  15. Here in the Mid-Atlantic it’s been a really hot and humid summer. I’ve been getting my outdoor time really early in the morning, an hour (4 miles) each day at sunrise. Normally, I spend my lunch hour outdoors, but I’m going to have to wait at least a couple more weeks for that. In the winter I just bundle up. The only exceptions are heavy rain and deep snow. If I don’t get my outdoor time, I get crazy.

    Tammy wrote on August 16th, 2012
  16. Last year I finally invested in a serious down hiking jacket.

    Now hiking is my favorite time to be outside!

    No bugs
    No snakes
    No humidity
    Lots of wilderness to myself.

    Properly dressed, I’m more comfortable in the winter than I am another other time of the year.

    Dan wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • ditto – i am not fan of summer – i get SAD in the summer because I have to stay indoors so much to avoid mosquitoes, humidity etc. I am counting down the days to my favorite season Fall starting. I love hiking in snow.

      barb wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • Since you live near Bloomington (I live in Springville, just down 37 from you), hike the Knobstone Trail in winter. You have to be in pretty good shape and you’ll average about 1 mph if it’s snowing, but well worth the trip.

      In the spring and fall you can average 3 mph if you don’t have the time in winter.

      Mike H wrote on August 17th, 2012
  17. It’s my peeve about my frazzled, frumpy, poorly aging, and falling apart fellow suburbanites: why would you so inconveniently live in the suburbs if all you did was go from car,to indoors, to car, back indoors – repeat… UGH!

    I exist for the outdoor life!

    Paula wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • That’s not all. Occasionally they’ll make the epic journey through a Drive-Through. It’s very physically demanding. They actually have to lean slightly to one side to grab their bags of PUFAs and processed starches, thus engaging their obliques.

      Animanarchy wrote on August 16th, 2012
      • bwahahahaha, hahaha

        yoolieboolie wrote on August 17th, 2012
  18. I’m so fortunate. This summer we are camphosts at a Colorado State Park campground. We live in our RV fulltime. Our “job” is cleaning campsites & greeting campers & visitors. It is SOOOO much better than the office job I retired from 5 years ago! Love it!

    Susan wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • That sounds like a great way to retire! :)

      Sarah A wrote on August 16th, 2012
  19. I’m glad it’s not just us Brits who complain about their weather, we’ve only had about 10 days called summer this year but nothing gives me a sense of calm like being outside and listening to the birds and insects, even if it’s accompanied by the sound of piddling rain. Even just wandering out in the garden last night and looking up at a rare clear starry night and listening to the crickets chirping is a perfect way to wind down.

    Tracy wrote on August 16th, 2012
  20. I think time spent immersed in nature can clear out the crud in our airways from smoking or pollution, maybe due to organic plant chemicals floating around in the air and acting like antioxidants, or maybe from just breathing clean air and thus allowing our bodies to clean themselves.

    Animanarchy wrote on August 16th, 2012
  21. Just a few days ago, my husband and I took our 4-year old daughter on a 2-day adventure. We spent our time at a 12,000 acre ranch in the middle of Nebraska exploring nature and we planned to watch the Perseid meteor shower. Our daughter tried so hard to stay up long enough to see it, but after a full-day of adventure, she fell asleep snuggled in my lap. As I sat below millions of twinkling stars, with my daughter’s warm little body tucked against mine and my hand entwined with my husbands’, I watched the meteors zoom across the sky and the most peaceful and wonderful feeling came over me. At that moment, I was exactly where I was supposed to be and I could not have wished for anything more. Nature is blissful if you allow it to be.

    Amy wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • Amy, I went on a brief vacation there whilst reading your post. Lovely! I am envious of your ranch and would love to visit.

      Christina wrote on August 17th, 2012
  22. This post is timely. I just spent the past two weekends camping…Ohiopyle, PA and the Savage River area in West Virginia. This weekend its Moraine State Park in PA and in a couple weeks its off to American Legion Forest in CT. I LOVE living back in Pennsylvania, because its so easy to get to the woods but still live in the city…I can be in Allegheny National Forest in just a couple hours. My new dream is to have a little cabin in Maryland or WV where I can’t hear anything but crickets. Someday!

    Now, I just have to convince my city-loving better half that the outdoors is good for him. He camps gamely, but he doesn’t like it. I keep trying new places to find something that he’ll actually enjoy!

    Jordan wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • I agree about the timely post, Jordan,
      I live in Camden county,NJ, part of the Megaopolis.
      The good news is, I am not far from the Pine Barrens. my neighbors and I escape to a lake there and “Take a forest bath”.
      I swear my blood pressure drops 20 points,

      Fred wrote on August 16th, 2012
  23. We often home school out side on the deck. That is if the wind doesn’t blow everything away. The day always gos alot smoother if part of the day is out side.

    Debi wrote on August 16th, 2012
  24. Thanks for the link to the book about evolutionary viewpoint for the appreciation of aesthetics!

    Lately, I’ve been researching the subject, partly thanks to the positive aesthetic changes in my own body that have come with following “Primal Blueprint”, and find aesthetics a fascinating study.

    Grokster wrote on August 16th, 2012
  25. Until the trails are closed by snow and bad weather in late autumn, I take a weekly, fasted 22.5 km hike in the forest north of Oslo, which I can complete in just under three hours (the first hour being uphill). It’s my weekly half marathon, only I don’t need to train for it (other than continue to walk 35 minutes to work and back) and, as I said, I do it fasted.

    Norman Robert Spencer wrote on August 16th, 2012
  26. MArk, thanks for the inspriation to get out of the four walls and live life. Wife and I are either on the lake in the canoe, on the AT in the Blue Ridge of Ole Virginia, or on some other trail every week. “Under the stars,”is awesome. As soon as I retire I’ll be doing it all the more. My wife says, I was born to late. I love the mountains, would have made a good “mountain man.” I feel at peace in them there hills.

    Preacher wrote on August 16th, 2012
  27. I love reading everyone’s responses, it really inspires me to get my ass up and get outside! My favorite place to be outdoors is in the redwoods of Northern California. It’s so peaceful and mysterious! Next month we’re going camping in the Sequoia’s. I love being out in nature and seeing wildlife.

    Lorinda wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • It’s time for me to get outside. I’ve been lounging for an hour and a half, getting kind of edgy, and am sweating through my pants on this library chair, which I’m sure isn’t that aesthetically pleasing or enticing for the next person to use the computer. Calisthenics, hiking, and maybe some tree climbing coming up.

      Animanarchy wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • Yes. Something about being in a deep, dark forest is just so…safe. I feel better there than in any other kind of nature.

      toaster for sale wrote on August 16th, 2012
      • Last night as it was starting to get dark out I startled a few deer and got to watch them lope away and listen to them crash through the thickets. One of them made a loud honking noise that almost made me jump.
        I saw lots of paw prints around too, maybe I’ll get lucky and see some coyotes, or better yet, coyotes killing deer or wild turkeys (there were lots of turkey prints too).
        Once I was jogging through a hayfield beside a cow field and decided to up the ante for a sprint, then realized I was sprinting right towards a coyote prowling on the edge of the fields, eying the cows. I slowed a bit, pondering, then went full blast again without changing course, and scared it away by doing so.

        Animanarchy wrote on August 17th, 2012
  28. I recently started taking walks in the evenings when the weather cools down. It’s a great time to be alone and reflect on what is going on around me. Sitting att he computer too long makes me edgy.
    Chase

    Anon wrote on August 16th, 2012
  29. My husband and I moved to the country in January after having lived in a city for over 10 years. Both of us grew up in the country. My friends & family were seriously concerned that my move to the “sticks” would negatively affect my mental health (I’ve battled depression since my early 20s). I can happily report that this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself and I do not miss a single thing about the city life. I spend time outdoors every single day (including rainy and snowy days – that’s what gear is for!). I work at home full time and often find myself stepping outside to decompress and rejuvenate. I know not everyone can up and move to a rural area, but cities are full of parks and arboretums and botanical gardens – GO VISIT THEM OFTEN. I wish I’d spent more of my city life there instead of in my house avoiding my neighbors!!

    Gracie wrote on August 16th, 2012
  30. I love it when you do posts like this, Mark…it is SO much a part of us as primal beings. I am an artist as well as a writer and teacher, and I much prefer working on the spot than in the studio. My vision is fresher and more immediate. No, not as polished, not as civilized…but realer and more primal.

    I’ve worked to protect the wild places, and even wrote a book called The Local Wilderness, some years back. Maybe I need to read it again!

    Cathy Johnson (Kate) wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • Actually that was one of the happiest times of my life, when I was writing natural history books. I’d drop my husband off at his ride, then head for the woods with a piece of fruit, thermos of coffee, and my sketchbook. I’d hike for HOURS, making notes, drawing what I found, trying to identify unfamiliar plants, getting close enough to deer to touch them…then come home and hit the books. What a way to live!

      Cathy Johnson (Kate) wrote on August 16th, 2012
  31. I love being outside.

    Right now I’m looking forward to my short hike on the weekend.

    Its so darn good for my spirit, soul and sanity :-)

    It’s my ultimate cure!

    P M Evans wrote on August 16th, 2012
  32. I moved to NYC from upstate a few years ago and sure, the parks are nice, but the lack of “real” nature was really rough. Luckily this summer I have a car and have been making trips to Harriman/Bear Mountain park as often as possible. My dog and I have hiked some parts of the Appalachian trail there. Hoping to make it there again this weekend.

    Jennifer wrote on August 16th, 2012
  33. So true. Time in nature cleanses my mind and soul. It corrects the effects the daily grind has on my body. I particularly enjoy backpacking. I consider it a very “human” experience. In fact, I find it to be the only time I feel truly human and connected with the earth. By walking, sleeping, resting, eating (on and from) the earth, I am much more connected with my surroundings than I am in my normal day-to-day life. Rock climbing is a similar experience for me. Ahhh…

    Katerina Styers wrote on August 16th, 2012
  34. I just got back from a couple days with my wife in Yosemite. All that was said about the positive effects of nature happened to me. When I was there, I had the feeling of being home. I remember telling my wife this. I came back fully recharged and ready to get back to the rat race. I will be returning again soon I think. Thanks for the article.
    \m/(-_-)\m/

    Brett wrote on August 16th, 2012
  35. I just got back from vacation in Turkey where I spent 3 weeks lounging on the beach and soaking up the sun’s rays. It’s amazing how much a little sunlight brightens your mood and seems to literally re-charge your batteries.

    Great post as always!

    JB Primal wrote on August 16th, 2012
  36. I remember as a kid on weekends me and the neighbourhood kids would disappear for the whole day. Our parents encouraged it. We’d explore the hills around our town, walk across farm paddocks and through creeks. We’d catch tadpoles and make cubby houses, or sometimes just lie around in the long grass. I’m 43 and this was in the 70s.
    Now, when I’m in nature, I feel a great sense of freedom and calm. My kids have always had lots of time in nature. We’re lucky enough to have a big block with a tyre swing, cubby house and trampoline. I feel so sorry for kids who don’t get much time outside.

    Tania wrote on August 16th, 2012
  37. Anton Lavey, part of the “Invocation to Satan”: “I live as the beasts of the field, rejoicing in the fleshly life!”

    Animanarchy wrote on August 16th, 2012
  38. a simple breath of fresh air or putting my toes in the grass makes me feel so wonderful. it’s amazing what nature can do for us & it’s totally free!!

    Marissa wrote on August 16th, 2012
  39. For those whoever live way down south in wonderful Australia, put the Great Ocean Road on your bucket list. We went for a nostalgic drive along this stretch of coast and walked along cliffs, beaches and amongst astonishing rain forest. It was fabulous. We are fortunate enough to own a small rural property where a lot of life is out of doors, it’s a great recharge for my better half, whose job is outdoorsy (marine pilot), but stressful. We also have a campfire in the garden which is fun, and winter bonfires are the best!
    Cheers

    Heather wrote on August 16th, 2012
    • I’m currently studying abroad in Australia; had initially discounted the Great Ocean Road since insurance premiums can be rough for renting a car when you’re under 25, but I may need to find a way to get out there if the hiking really is that good :)

      BGottfried wrote on August 16th, 2012
  40. I love this post.

    Your last one about the outdoors prompted more outdoor bike riding than I usually do. (I do most of my riding indoors because my schedule lends itself to riding when it’s dark outside.)

    But I’ve moved outdoors more, in the early morning hours. Central Park is great then. Quiet and uncrowded. I love what I feel and see and hear around me (birds, wind, leaves, people, dogs, etc.). It’s lovely being part of it all (and moving my body the same time).

    Yeah, I know Grock didn’t have a bike, but he did lift heavy things, so I’ve worked that in. After my rides, I stand with my bike, hands curled under the cross bar, and lift it to my chest 200 times. (After about 50 lifts, it gets heavy.)

    Then I go home and make tea and a really good Primal breakfast. A great start to the day. :-)

    Susan Alexander wrote on August 16th, 2012

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