Whether you’re consumed by stress or in need of a creativity boost, one of the most effective ways to get out of your own head is through a change of scenery (it’s a popular saying for good reason!). Spending time outdoors, in particular, can have an incredible impact on the body and mind: A 2019 study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that spending as little as 20 minutes outdoors in nature can significantly lower your stress hormone levels.

Plus, you don’t have to jet off to some exotic locale to take a rejuvenating break from your everyday, indoor environment. “No matter where you are, you can open up your senses and take in your surroundings, bringing awareness to the sense of touch, smell, sound, and sight in a gentle and non-judgmental way,” Nina Smiley, Ph.D., a psychologist and director of mindfulness programming at Mohonk Mountain House, tells Thrive.

For example, if you’re in a busy metropolitan area, you can bask in the sensation of the warm sun or spot some greenery that you never noticed before. “While you engage in these exercises, remember to take deep breaths and allow your thoughts to leave as you exhale,” Smiley says. “This can be done in real time — perhaps as part of your work commute, during your lunch runs, or even while you take a coffee break — and it’s a quick, simple way to bring clarity and spaciousness into the mind and more energy and focus into your life.” 

By scheduling time on your calendar to go outside (practicing your Microstep!), you’ll increase your chances of getting outdoors each day. Leaving the office for lunch or a quick walk will soon become a habit you don’t think twice about. 

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  • Elizabeth Yuko, Ph.D.

    Bioethicist and writer

    Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is a bioethicist and writer specializing in health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. Previously she was the health and sex editor at SheKnows. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University and has written for print and online publications including The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe AtlanticRolling StoneSalon and Playboy, and has given a TEDX talk on The Golden Girls and bioethics.