When too much concrete and cubicle time have got you down, it’s easy to get locked in a cycle of stress and overwork. One of the easiest ways to reduce stress and relax is to spend time outdoors. The sunshine and exercise will be good for your body and reconnecting with nature will also be good for your soul.
Image via Flickr by Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
The great thing about hiking is that anyone can do it, and you don’t need any special equipment to get started, aside from hiking boots and a bottle of water. There are trails in every community and neighborhood from paved beginner trails on flat ground to rocky, challenging trails that scale mountain peaks. As you walk and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of woodlands, gardens, and meadows, your blood pressure and cortisol levels will lower, effectively reducing your stress.
If relaxing, calm, and quiet are what you are after, you’ll find serenity and wonder in birding. For this activity, you will need some binoculars, a guidebook to familiar birds, and a nature preserve or park frequented by local birds. Sit and watch the birds in their natural habitat, nesting, feeding, and flying. Exclude all other thoughts and focus on the bird song, like a forest meditation, and before you know it, you’ll feel more relaxed.
Maybe it’s been years since you rode a bike, but it’s not too late to feel the wind in your hair as you zip down the street just like a child. You can recapture that carefree feeling and get back into biking as an adult, whether you want to bike to work through the park, cruise along the boardwalk, start long-distance cycling, or get into mountain biking.
Before you head out on the road or the trail, be sure to get a helmet and reflectors, and take a course on bike safety and bike maintenance. Biking is the perfect cardio workout, and being outside, you’ll feel more connected to nature and the world around you.
The unique sense of calm you can experience atop a wave or drifting down a stream is something you can only experience as a paddler. Paddling sports include canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and standup paddle boarding. The rhythm of dipping your paddle in and out of the water calms and centers the mind and also challenges your muscles.
Boating is the perfect activity for everyone, whether you like to swim, water ski, fish, or simply cruise around the lake. Assuming you already have a watercraft, you’ll need to choose the right trailer and learn how to launch and retrieve a boat, which is something that you can do solo or with a team. Pack your sunscreen, swimsuit, rod, reel, tackle, emergency gear, and snacks for the day. You’ll gain confidence and pride as you conquer the water and encounter nature from a new perspective.
Outside, you can connect with friends and family or spend some introspective time alone, living fully in the moment. Spend more time outdoors, and you’ll soon feel more relaxed, less stressed, and more connected with the world.