Change your life in 20 minutes: explore green spaces

Dr. Asha Fields Brewer

Fast. It’s the pace of modern society. Conveniences like microwaves, computers, and airplanes help us get to places and do things much more quickly than generations before us. Yes, this fast pace makes us productive and progressive. However, this pace also threatens our quality of life. Stress, anxiety, mental instability, and chronic diseases are common casualties of our war with time. 

Spending 20 minutes “in contact with nature” reduces stress, according to a Neuroscience News article published in April 2019. I have heard “nature” described as a combination of green spaces and blue spaces. Green spaces include trees, flowers, gardens, forests, and wherever else we see vegetation taking up residence. Blue spaces, on the other hand, are water bodies, such as oceans, beaches, lakes, and ponds. 

One benefit of green spaces is to decrease the impact of pollution on our air passages. There are many pollutants in the air we breathe. Plants absorb some of these pollutants in the form of carbon dioxide. Plants also release oxygen into the atmosphere, which humans breathe in. Humans release carbon dioxide, which plants can absorb. So, whether you decide to step outside for “fresh air,” or you curate green areas indoors, sharing space with plant life is a mutually beneficial relationship. 

Green spaces remind us that we too can thrive. In color psychology, green is a sign of health, vitality, and growth. Especially during stressful seasons, what encourages me is to take a walk outside and meditate on this passage: “…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30, ESV). In life, we don’t just go through challenges. If we are intentional, we can grow through them as well. In stressful moments, or even as part of your daily routine, consider how being in green spaces refreshes your perspective on life and your capacity to thrive. 

Lastly, taking the time to appreciate green spaces helps us better manage stress and slow down. In The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World’s Happiest People by Meik Wiking, he suggests the Japanese practice of “forest bathing” to bolster mental health, physical health, and happiness. Forest bathing is simply spending time in nature and absorbing what surrounds you. Wiking also discusses research, that states (A) forest bathing “reduces the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, in our blood and boosts the immune system” and (B) “taking part in activities like country walks, sailing, and gardening had a positive effect on the mood and self-esteem of participants.”

Now that we know the impact that just 20 minutes in green spaces can have on our mind, our mood, and our physical bodies, here are some ideas for exploring green spaces near you:

Take a walk on a trail with a loved one.

Drink your morning or evening beverage outside.

Pack your journal and hang out near a garden.

Head to the park for some stretching.

Sit in the backyard and use your senses to identify different sights, sounds, and smells of the nature around you.

I’d love to hear how 20 minutes impacts you. Connect with me at www.doctorasha.com/hello to let me know how it goes. You can also download deep breathing prompts to practice during your time outside. Enjoy!   

Dr. Asha Fields Brewer is a creator of healthy conversations. As a national speaker and published author, she teaches the busy and overwhelmed how to live life abundantly. She is the owner of Temple Fit Co. wellness agency, which is home to 25-plus wellness speakers and fitness instructors. Tune in to “Temple Fit Devotions with Dr. Asha” on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. on Hallelujah 95.3 FM.


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