Use nature to feel better. Bring the outside inside.

Take it from this hibernation expert: sometimes it’s best to just stay in!

Take it from this hibernation expert: sometimes it’s best to just stay in!

It’s brutal cold here in Chicago. As I write this, temps are dropping to record lows. It is not a good time to go outside.

It’s also a time when depression and anxiety can get worse. Science has not yet uncovered WHY there are links between weather and mood. But even without the nerdy data to explain it, there’s plenty of evidence that the link does exist.  More and more research shows that mood plummets with the mercury

When we are shut inside, our eyes looking only at screens, walls, furniture and other people, it’s easy to disconnect from the outside environment. Who’s thinking about trees and grass when the temps are in the single digits?

This disconnect from nature has consequences. In one study, brain areas associated with anxiety show increased activity in research participants who were exposed to an urban environment, as compared to those who took walks in nature. In other words, being deprived of green scenery increases anxiety

So, for those of us who live in these cold cold (did I mention cold?) climates, what are we to do?

Fret not. Here are a few ways to access the power of the outdoors without freezing your tail off. They may not answer the call of the wild, but they can help to soothe your nerves so that you can survive til spring. 

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  1. Tune in to nature noises. Try swapping out your morning radio routine for the soothing sounds of sparkling streams. One app I particularly like for this is called White Noise, and it’s free!

  2. Gaze at images of the outdoors. From the warmth of your living room, find some pictures of grand outdoor scenes, and flip through them. Double points for combining this with the nature noises!

  3. Find an indoor garden. Here in Chicago, we have the Garfield Conservatory, which is FREE and amazing. If you don’t live near a place like that, then visit a local nursery to expose yourself to the sights, smells and sensations of plant life.  

  4. Make an indoor garden. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but tending to indoor plants can feed your soul’s need for dirt. Or, consider creating a sand tray and give yourself some time to build sand castles in your living room.

  5. Plant yourself by the window. It counts. One study showed that people recovered faster and with fewer complications when they had a room with a view of trees, as compared to those who faced a brick wall. A pane of glass can’t get in the way of your mood boost!

Nature heals. You deserve that health, so go get it. Smell the roses!!