I just finished reading The Nature Fix by Florence Williams. It’s a book that scientifically explains why spending time in nature has been proven to increase happiness, healthiness, and creativity. Here are some of my favorite takeaways from the book:
- Spending as little as five hours per month outdoors has been shown to reduce both stress and blood pressure. It’s also associated with heightened awareness and creativity.
- Surprisingly, most of the benefits from nature come from the sounds and scents we hear and smell while spending time outdoors. Specifically, birdsong has been shown to reduce stress and make us feel more relaxed.
- Even looking at pictures of nature for only a few minutes is associated with an increased sense of well-being and happiness. (After reading this, I changed my computer screensaver to a picture of a forest. Maybe it’s just the placebo effect, but it does seem to put me in a good mood whenever I see it.)
- Even a 20 minute walk outside in the middle of the workday has been shown to increase productivity and creativity significantly.
- People are spending more time indoors than ever before in human history. This has some notably negative side effects. As the percentage of people who live in urban areas increases and time outdoors decreases, obesity, stress, and depression rates all go through the roof.
Intuitively, I think we all know that it’s a good idea to get some fresh air from time to time. But this book highlights just how transforming it can be. I personally wasn’t aware of all the physical, mental, and psychological benefits of spending time outside. In addition to these great perks, there’s another obvious benefit of spending time outside:
It’s completely free!
Nearly all public parks, hiking paths, bike trails, and nature reserves are completely free to access. For anyone looking to cut their entertainment bill and save some money, spending time in nature is the answer! Not to mention it practically begs to be a social experience.
Instead of spending $15 per person on movie tickets, why not pack a lunch for $5 and head to a nature reserve near your house? You’ll actually get to spend time socializing with the people you’re with instead of staring at a massive screen together in silence in the dark. I would rather save more money and receive some great health benefits. This aligns with spending money to maximize my happiness.
Nature is out there
Before reading The Nature Fix, I had already been an outdoors guy, but once I learned the extent of all the health benefits I was inspired to spend even more time in nature. I only faced one problem: There weren’t many nature reserves or parks near my house…or so I thought.
I headed over to Google Maps and literally searched the word “park”. This is what popped up:
There were over 20 parks within a 10 mile radius of my house. I had only been to maybe 7 or 8 of them. I had no idea there so many outdoor spots to visit in my own backyard.
A little farther out I saw some larger green blobs on the map. Pro tip: anytime you see a big green blob on Google Maps, it’s some type of forest or nature reserve. I zoomed in on these spots and discovered there were two huge forests with extensive networks of hiking trails less than 15 miles from my house:
That same week I headed out to those two forests with some friends to check out the trails. They were surprisingly well maintained and hardly anyone was there.
The trails were a blast and I’ve gone back several times since then. At the end of each hike I’m always drenched in sweat, but guaranteed to be in a better mood than when I started the hike. It must be a combination of physical exercise along with the scents of the forest and the birdsong…who knew birds chirping could be such a mood booster?
Discovering these forests helped me realize there really were places to spend time in nature right in my own backyard. If you’re looking to find some new outdoor spots where you live, I’d recommend checking for some giant green blobs on Google Maps near your house. You might be surprised at what you find.
The perfect way to save more and maximize happiness
Any time I go outdoors and do something active I’m almost always in a better mood than when I stay inside and opt for passive entertainment. To me, nature offers more entertainment value than watching a movie or going somewhere like a casino or indoor arcade. I also think it’s way more fun to actually do a physical activity outside and be able to socialize with the people around you.
Best of all, spending time in nature can be a huge money saver, especially for families. It’s infinitely cheaper to spend the day at a nature reserve, out on hiking trails, or hanging out on the lake than to pay for passive entertainment.
If you’re looking to save money, increase happiness, and become healthier, try going outside a little more.
Fun fact: I wrote this article while listening to noisli.com, a site that uses nature sounds to create background noise to help you focus. Nothing quite like writing about nature while listening to nature 🙂
Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.
His favorite investment platform is M1 Finance, a site that allows him to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free, has no trading or maintenance fees, and even allows him to set up automated target-allocated investments.
His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.
His favorite micro-investing app is Acorns, a free financial app that takes just 5 minutes to set up and allows you to invest your spare change in a diversified portfolio.
His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.
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