- Environmental Health -

The Green Hour

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The-Green-Hour

A daily dose of nature can improve your health and well-being. Here are 27 ways to get more green in your day.

For decades, researchers have been demonstrating the many ways that nature enriches our lives. From the mood-enhancing properties of sunlight to the immunity-supporting bacteria found in soil, we know that time spent in nature delivers -important physical and emotional health benefits.

Yet few of us get outdoors as much as we’d like. At work and at home, we spend the vast majority of our time indoors. And with school and screen time absorbing most of their waking hours, so do our kids.

In 2007, as part of an effort to draw more of us back to nature, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) launched its Green Hour campaign with the primary aim of encouraging parents to give their children an hour of outside playtime each day. But kids aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from this daily practice.

“I see no reason to put nature play aside just because we’ve reached adulthood,” says Todd Christopher, who codeveloped the NWF campaign and authored The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids. “Most of us probably need it now more than ever.”

So how can busy adults with already-hectic schedules cobble together an hour of precious outdoor time? We asked our readers and staff for their best suggestions.

Creating Outdoor Rituals

I enjoy drinking my coffee and reading a magazine on the back porch.  — Galina Svintsova

I love grilling and eating outside. Our family does it as often as possible once warm temperatures hit. And we always request outdoor tables at restaurants! — Kristi Strelow

My family of four goes walking after dinner and everyone shares how their day went. It’s a great way for us all to reconnect. — Etleva Berberi Semaj

Summer evenings, my husband and I enjoy a glass of wine “sandbox-side” while the kids play. — Adrienne Hannert

Getting From Here to There

I go to and from work on two wheels. Riding my bike in the morning really sets me up to feel great all day. Riding back helps me unwind and transition from office to home. — Pamela AdriKat Burke

I live in Clearwater, Fla., and I love the paved trails, the causeways, and the beach, and seeing the wildlife. Last week, I saw pelicans while walking and a mama and baby duck while biking. — Lynne Koval

I love putting the roof down on my convertible and letting the sun shine on my face as the wind blows through my hair.  — Peggy Rewey

When I’m walking to a meeting near the office, I leave five minutes early and stroll rather than speed walk. I don’t always have to rush. — Jamie Swaim

Embracing Yard Work

As summer wears on, I’ll often spend a meditative hour (or more) yanking weeds away from the borders of our flower gardens. — Craig Cox

I love lying on a lounge chair and listening to the birds. Afterward I do some work in my flower garden. Making my space more beautiful gives me peace. It stretches my muscles and calms my spirit. — Lesa Hodges

I plant or buy a few hanging plants every spring; they typically require daily watering, which guarantees I’ll be out there at least a few minutes a day. — Pilar Gerasimo

Working Out Outside

I exercise outside as often as I can. Throughout the summer and fall, I’m either roller skiing, or cycling through farm country with my cycling group, or running ski trails. — Steve Waryan

Playing in the backyard with the kids! It’s fun, it’s good exercise, it helps bring the family together, and it gives us an excuse to not “act our age.” — Chrissy Sorenson

We have a walnut grove as part of our farm. We go out there and lie on the grass, throw sticks, and goof around; but mostly we climb our willow trees. Tree climbing is the best. — Glynnis Lessing

After getting my daughter on the bus, I head straight for the trail that leads to the lake near my house. Most days, I hike the same 40-minute loop, noticing all kinds of subtle changes. — Jill Metzler Patton

Watching the World Go By

Finding a quiet log to sit on in the woods. Listening to silence first, and then birds twittering and calling. Naming those birds, one by one. If I’m patient enough, I’ll catch a glimpse of something furry carrying on. — Holly Sutton Walz

I love sitting down by the river watching the boats go by. — Terry Irish

I find moving through a natural landscape — walking, hiking, biking, whatever — to be almost meditative. It could be a city park, a forest path, a desert trail. Each can be just as rewarding and restorative. — Todd Christopher

Collect shells during the daylight; lie on a bench and watch the stars at night. — Laurie Kerkinni

Tending to the Animals

Taking my little boy and our dog down through the orchard behind our house to a small lake with ducks, swans, and Canada geese. We feed them leftover bread, and our spaniel, Rocket, goes for a swim.  — Emma Bishop

I steal a few minutes outdoors every day, walking and playing fetch with our dog, Banksy. He loves it! — Kelsey Gregory

We raise urban chickens, and it’s so fun to just hang out with them in the sun once the chores are done. We call it Chicken TV. — Megan Gehrman

After I give the horses their late-afternoon hay, I spend a few minutes brushing them, then take a walk around the hayfield or work with my young horse for a while. Heaven! — Lydia Anderson

Taking Indoor Tasks Out

I hang laundry outside, and fold it right off the line into the basket so I can spend more time out there. If it’s not windy, I’ll sort my mail and pay bills on the porch, too. And I take phone calls walking around the yard or the block whenever I can. — Clara Beacon

I like doing my own manis and pedis on the patio. Soak, file, buff, polish — it’s all more pleasant in fresh air and sunshine. — Liz Smith

Composting food scraps requires regular trips to the compost bin, sometimes multiple times a day. — Brad Martin

If a meeting doesn’t require note-taking, I’ll often suggest “walk-and-talks,” so we can get up from our desks and get some fresh air while being productive. — Courtney Lewis Opdahl


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