Now that we're halfway through the year, those new year's resolutions might be out of commission and a new whiff of inspiration is in order. Whether work or life is bogging you down, you don't have to take a big trip or drastically change your life to feel new.
In fact, a reset button might just be around the corner (or a day trip away). This summer, I challenge you to step outside of your box and head into nature to get that fresh, new perspective. In fact, science says you should do it. Depending on what kind of reset you need, head to one (or all) of the following three places.
Water: to Lower Stress and Anxiety
What do you think of when you hear water? Beach, lake, river, pond, waterfall, ocean, or maybe something else? Wallace J. Nichols, Ph.D., is a marine biologist and the author of Blue Mind, a book that discusses the benefits of water. No, not just drinking it.
He calls these benefits "blue mind," which he describes as "the mildly meditative state we fall into when near, in, on, or under water." By surrounding ourselves with water, Nichols has found that your stress and anxiety levels can lower, a perfect way to calm down if you've had an especially trying week at work or need to find clarity about a chronic issue.
Forest: to Boot Your Immune System and Improve Mood
In 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries coined the word "shinrin-yoku," meaning forest bathing. They were already a hundred steps ahead of me. They discovered that breathing in the fresh forest air meant you were also inhaling phytoncides, a natural and airborne chemical that helps plants fight off disease. By breathing in the phytoncides, you, in turn, would develop a stronger immune system.
In another study, led by Japanese researchers at Chiba University, 168 participants were sent out on a stroll. Half walked through the forest while the other half walked the city streets. Those that went into the forest showed a 16 percent decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone), a 2 percent decrease in blood pressure, and a 4 percent decrease in heart rate.
Mountains: to See the Same Thing From a New Perspective
Two years ago, I did the famous Half Dome hike in Yosemite National Park. This 12-hour, 16-mile hike was a grueling experience that left me wondering why I was doing it in the first place. The first few miles of the hike runs you through beautiful Vernal Falls, a majestic waterfall that mists you as you hike up its adjacent steps. Beyond this point and to the base of the mountain seems like a dizzying maze of thinking you're almost done...but no, that's still Half Dome, but from the other side.
It wasn't until I ascended up the cables and onto the top of the mountain, taking in a breathtaking view, that I realized it really is all about the journey. Any troubles I had maintained during the hike disappeared as I took in the view from up top. There, I saw all the other domes I had seen from the ground. But from my new vantage point, they sparkled in a way I could have never seen six hours earlier.
To gain a new perspective, you have to move.
It's no surprise that getting yourself outdoors is the number one thing to do to feel better. Away from the distraction of noise, people, and problems, you also get the sense of feeling small and that life's pressures are overrated. Compared to large bodies of water, towering hundred-year-old redwoods, or large granite forms, you are humbly reminded that things are never as they seem.