It is no secret that the environments we spend time in can have a profound impact on our wellbeing. It is also not surprising to hear that for most North Americans, the vast majority of our time is spent indoors, whether it is at a place of work, at home, or otherwise.

Since the industrial revolution, there is a general sense that humans have ‘lost touch with nature,’ lamenting the positive connection we shared with the natural world since time immemorial. As such, research investigating the potential benefits offered by spending time in nature has sprung up. It has been demonstrated that ‘green time,’ or time spent in nature, can have a significant healing effect, particularly on our mental health. These effects can be wide ranging and include areas such as stress, depression, anxiety, ADHD, dementia, trauma, and many more.

The healing effects of nature are well-established in many cultures around the world. For example, since the 1980’s Japan’s public health ministry has endorsed a practice called Shinrin-yoku or ‘Forest Bathing,’ in which an individual takes deliberate time to walk quietly amongst the trees and attend to the natural surroundings. This is used both as a preventative measure to promote human wellbeing and as a form of extreme stress relief.

In North America, healthcare professionals have been providing ‘park prescriptions’ (PaRx) for the past decade. These prescriptions can offer a detailed and personalized plan to incorporate green time into an individual’s schedule and overall healthcare plan. PaRx registered healthcare providers can also help provide access to nature-based resources, such as provincial parks, museums, and more.

There are many ways one can begin incorporating green time into their life and start reaping the benefits it can offer. Some helpful tips and considerations include:

  • Aiming for a minimum of 20 minutes in meaningful contact with nature per day. Research has shown that the 20 minute mark is when cortisol (the stress hormone) levels begin to drop, so it is important to make sure the green time you invest in is adequate.
  • Meaningful contact with nature can include activities such as:
    • Walking/hiking in a green space.
    • Sitting on a park bench.
    • An outdoor activity, i.e. cycling, skiing, swimming.
  • Schedule your green time. Writing it down in your planner or calendar can serve as a helpful reminder and encouragement to stick to the commitment.
  • Dress for the weather. Green time doesn’t require a sunny day/warm weather, going for a walk in the rain or snow can be just as beneficial so long as you dress appropriately for the conditions. Grab some extra layers and a warm drink for a wonderfully cozy walk through freshly-fallen snow!

Beyond the mental health benefits, hiking or walking outdoors is also a great way to stay active and improve upon our physical health as well. In this way, green time is a great strategy to increase wellbeing in a holistic way—mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. And the great thing about nature is that it is, quite literally, right outside your front door!


The content of this blog is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health provider or physician with any questions that you have regarding mental health concerns. If you think you have an emergency, please call 911 or visit your nearest emergency room.