This blog often touches on the many ways spending time in nature benefits your health. But it’s one thing to intellectually understand that spending time outside can boost your health; it’s another to actually do it.
There are plenty of reasons why people don’t participate in outdoor activities. However, for many, spending time in nature means hiking, and that just doesn’t appeal to them—it may sound boring, pointless, or simply too strenuous.
If you want to get outside, but hiking up a mountain doesn’t exactly thrill you, there are plenty of other outdoor activities you may not have considered. Here are a few. These activities are lowkey and relaxing, and can provide you with hours of fun outside.
Photography, Painting, and Visual Art
Spending time in nature doesn’t just boost your health. It also gives you the opportunity to indulge in creative pursuits like photography, painting, and sketching. This can be a relaxing, fun way to spend time outside without having to work up a sweat or even travel far. You can also make a game of it—for example, go on a walk in the woods and try to find five wildflowers to photograph. From wildlife to plants to scenic views, nature offers plenty of fascinating, colorful subjects and beautiful light to inspire your creativity.
Geocaching is an excellent outdoor activity if you have children—it’s essentially a treasure hunt. Geocachers use a GPS device or mobile phone to navigate to hidden “caches” filled with trinkets. These caches and their GPS coordinates are published on sites like www.opencaching.us and www.geocaching.com; there are more than 3 million active geocaches in 191 countries on all 7 continents worldwide.
Geocaching is fun because it combines aspects of hiking, orienteering, and treasure-hunting, and it offers a fun challenge and reward if a walk or a hike doesn’t seem interesting to you. In addition, caches are rated according to difficulty and the surrounding physical terrain. This means there are caches that are perfect for families with young children and caches that demand a lengthy hike to reach, and everything in between.
Forest bathing is a meditative practice that only requires you to be present in nature. First established as the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, forest bathing is a way to “bathe” in nature with all your senses. For example, you might take a slow walk through the woods, breathing deeply and taking the time to note all you see, hear, smell, and touch. There’s no need to rush or make it to a certain destination; the goal (if you can call it that) is just to be. If you’re feeling stressed and tense, forest bathing is a great way to slow down and reconnect with the natural world.
There are 47 million birders in the United States—why not join them? Birdwatching is a relaxing, fascinating hobby and a fun way to spend time in the natural world. It’s also a hobby that appeals to a broad range of people.
For example, there’s a challenging, competitive aspect to it if you want; many birders compete in what’s called the “Big Year” to see who can spot the most species in a specific region in a year. Plenty of birders take a lowkey, more relaxed approach to their hobby and simply enjoy learning how to identify birds by their appearance and song. Other birders enjoy the “citizen science” aspect and record their sightings for research projects and wildlife organizations. If you’re looking for a hobby with a community, birdwatching is also a great choice—birdwatching clubs abound.
Mushroom hunting is another excellent hobby to pick up if you want to spend more time in nature, but don’t want to go on a strenuous or fast-paced hike. There are tens of thousands of species of mushrooms, which makes identifying them a fun challenge, and they are more ephemeral than plants—they often appear after a rain. Finding one in the wild is like finding a hidden treasure, especially if you find an edible one prized for its taste!
At the same time, keep in mind that some mushrooms can make you sick or even kill you if you eat them. If you’re a beginner, go mushroom hunting with someone who is experienced and invest a quality field guide. You may also find a local foraging group in your area. If you go alone as a beginner, do not eat anything you find—your goal for your first few hunts should simply be to find mushrooms, identify their species, and collect a sample or photograph.
Even when walking through your neighborhood, you’ve probably noticed a particularly beautiful leaf, a pinecone, or a feather dropped by a passing bird. Collecting natural objects is an easy, fun way to spend time outside, and it can also entertain young children for hours. Start your collection with what interests you the most—maybe it’s rocks, shells, sea glass, old birds’ nests, or even seeds. Nature collecting is also fun because it gives you something to do once you’re home: figuring out how to display your collection.
Other Outdoor Activities
Of course, there are plenty of other outdoor activities, like bicycling, kayaking, climbing, bouldering, surfing, and swimming. However, remember that you can also enjoy nature if more lowkey activities appeal to you. Give one of the activities on this list a try and get outside!