Feb. 24. 2017
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Happy FriYAY guys! Today I’m sharing a thought on health and another pillar of our wellness that may not get as much attention as it deserves…nature! Spending time in nature has always been incredibly centering for me, and as much as I’m on the computer or working much of day, like most of you I’m guessing, I try to spend at least an hour outside every day to stay aligned, centered, and get some fresh air coupled with Vitamin D. Luna pup definitely makes getting outside every day a lot more likely to happen- any other dog mammas out there feel the same? Nature is so important to your health and overall wellbeing that I’ve included it as the final pillar of the NS lifestyle. Keep reading to learn the health benefits of nature and how being outside can help you feel amazing.

First, let’s take a quick second to recap the NS Lifestyle aka what I like to call the Health Hexagon. The first six components (a supportive squad, managing stress, moving your body/exercise, nourishment with food, love, and beauty sleep) are vital to a balanced wellbeing in my book. These six are the foundational pillars of health that we should take special care to get enough of in our lives in order to feel our very best. The remaining four pillars of the NS Lifestyle are “optimizers” to help you take your health next level and add it vital components (in my opinion) that help support your emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. Once you’ve got the first six down, you’re ready to add in the next four components – explore/travel, find center, manifest your goals and vision, and last but not least, spend time in nature.

♦ 01. SQUAD ♦ 02. STRESS ♦ 03. BODY ♦ 04. NOURISHMENT ♦ 05. LOVE ♦ 06. SLEEP ♦ 07. EXPLORE ♦ 08. CENTER ♦ 09. MANIFEST ♦ 10. NATURE

Soak in that sunshine, love.

So why is nature so important to living well? Studies have shown that just being around trees and green space can help lower your stress and even lower symptoms of anxiety and depression (1) (2). Research has also shown that living in an area with closer proximity to nature and green space has a prolonged positive impact on mental health (4). In fact, the same study showed that the overall mental health of individuals who lived farther away from nature actually declined after moving. Yikes! How does being outside have such an impact on our health? For thousands of years, humans have spent most of their waking hours in nature, and that connection to the outside still plays a vital role in our human experience! If you think about it, so many of us, myself included, spend so much time indoors and sitting at desks. We need the balance of spending time in nature, breathing fresh air, feeling sunshine on our skin, and grounding into the earth to combat all the sitting at desks, typing on computers, reading from your screen (like you’re doing right now), and being inside all day. Not to mention, sunlight plays a role in your body’s absorption of Vitamin D, and a deficiency of Vitamin D has been linked to depression (5). Plus being outside has the added bonus of generally having space from away electronics. Well, for most people – I hope this can encourage you to leave the phone at home next time you head outside 😉

Nature can also help immediately improve your perception of how you feel. Being outside has also been shown to improve people’s self-worth and their idea of how healthy they feel, i.e just going outside makes people feel like they’re healthier. People also reported that heading out to nature gave a sense of “escape” and the feeling of getting away from it all, which can be hugely beneficial to your mental state (3). I have a hunch that not looking at a screen while outside really plays a factor in that last effect! For me, being outside has a huge impact on how I feel mentally and helps me to feel more centered. The next time you’re feeling blah or in not the best mood, get outside for a bit and see if it has an immediate impact on things – something I just spoke to with my friend Branden on his podcast interview on my thoughts about balance which you can listen to here.

The biggest tip and take home here is all about finding what works for you. Maybe for you, connecting with nature looks like going barefoot in your lawn, hiking, rock climbing, taking a walk through the park (my go to living in the city), etc. Even grounding mats have picked up a lot of buzz in the health and wellness world, though, in my opinion, it’s probably more beneficial to just get outside a bit every day. For me, I try to walk at least 20 minutes a day outside with Luna, even if it’s just around my neighborhood but ideally at the park for a good hour to clear my mind, boost creativity, process emotions or whatever is on mind at the moment. What could be a couple of ways you could squeeze more nature time into your day?

Get out there!

So get outside and get some nature in your life! What are your favorite ways to spend time outside? I’d love to get the conversation going, so share your favorite outdoor activities in the comments! Does anybody have a really interesting or unusual activity? Let me hear it!

xx McKel


  1. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169204611003665
  2. http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/3/3453
  3. Peacock, Jo, Rachel Hine, and Jules Pretty. “The mental health benefits of green exercise activities and green care.” Report for MIND (2007).
  4. http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/3/3453
  5. http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/bjprcpsych/202/2/100.full.pdf