Throughout childhood, many of us spent our time digging through dirt, riding bikes around and around the neighborhood, and frolicking down hills with friends. Of course, life eventually gets in the way — it’s hard to frolic when never-ending deadlines, chores, and video meetings creep into the calendar of life. But that blissful childhood rush after a day in the grass and mud might be important to bring back into our routines. Because according to multiple scientific studies, being among nature can be good for our bodies and our mental health alike.
There’s a reason for things like runners’ highs and the joy of a weekend on the beach with friends. A growing scientific field called “eco-therapy” has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression, Harvard Health says. And new evidence from the University of Washington has found that nature-peeping is associated with increases in well-being, positive social interactions, and a sense of meaning and purpose, too. All of that just from going outside? Well, Mother Nature is a strong woman.
You need the right gear to take advantage of getting outside, whether that be SPF, a backpack, or the right hiking boot. Enter KEEN Footwear, which has been making it easy for everyone to get outside for over 18 years. The family-owned maker of original hybrid sandals, boots, and sneakers has recently launched the Ridge Flex, a shoe featuring new KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX technology in the forefoot and heel.
This technology (which has been tested to withstand over a million flexes) reduces the amount of energy it takes to exert a step by 60 percent, making hiking feel easier. Made from a proprietary TPU-based material, the flex tech is built to bend with an accordion-like design. Whip them out the next time you’re itching to get outside, when you need to clear your head and move your limbs. If you need some inspiration, here are three ways you can embrace eco-therapy and take in the benefits of nature, with a shoe crafted to make every step count.
Put your phone away and take a hike
Imagine this: the sound of wind rushing through the trees and the crunch of the earth beneath your shoes. Soothing, right? Hiking can encourage a variety of wellness perks. One Standford-led study showed that spending time among nature can boost your spirits, lull anxiety, and reduce stress. Nature is one of the few places where you can live entirely in the moment and let go of deadlines, technology, and more— you’ll most likely put down your phone for a few hours. According to another study, all of that free brain space to think and reflect can increase your attention span and creativity — you’ll be ready to take on the upcoming week with renewed vigor.
To set out on the trail, you’ll want an instantly comfortable hiking boot to lace up and go outside. Hiking boots usually need some time to be broken in, but you don’t have to worry about that wearing the Ridge Flex. The boot was crafted with out-of-the-box comfort —and it feels good from the first step to the last. The shoes also feature the label’s KonnectFit heel lock to keep your heel in place and a wide toe box that gives your toes room to wiggle and breathe.
Surround yourself with green space on a walk
Loving long, leisurely strolls don’t have to be merely a rom-com cliché. A National Recreation and Park Association study states that “People who lived in close proximity to natural space had significantly improved mental health up to three years after their move,” and that, “the more often respondents visited green spaces, the less stress they experienced.” Walking is also a great way to get in those steps (without breaking a major midday sweat) while helping people tired of couch-sitting and all-day video calls to enjoy the crisp air in their local neighborhood. A stroll to your favorite coffee shop or neighborhood park will suffice.
Sleep among the trees on a camping trip
If the idea of removing yourself from the laptop, the phone, and the television has kept you from indulging in your family’s camping trip idea, then you might want to reconsider. The fresh air, the relationship building, and the development of new skills (hello: who doesn’t want to know how to build a fire?) are just a few reasons people have been openly obsessed with camping since the beginning of time. Camping, whether that’s vaulting a tent in the wide-open wilderness or parking your RV in a campground, can be refreshing for everyone involved. Looking to get in those hard-earned z’s? A 2017 study published in Current Biology showed that just a weekend of camping can shift your internal clock a little closer to where your sleep-wake cycle should be, something we’re all lacking in today’s nonstop, 9-to-5 world.
Whatever outside activity you choose, be proud of yourself for getting out and reconnecting. The science we know about dopamine shows how easy it is to get caught up in manufactured dopamine loops, where we end up teaching our brains to accept routines that aren’t effective or healthy (like lounging in front of the TV for hours, under-sleeping, or over-indulging on sweet things). So even if you’re not regularly frolicking like a child in the grass after extra-long workdays or doom-scrolling through the internet, you can still boot up and get a rush outside. After all, the human body is meant to move, connect, and recharge.