Stepping outdoors on a beautiful day doesn’t just lift your spirits. Scientists say it also boosts health — and it takes less than sixty seconds to get the benefits! Here are 10 great reasons to take a break and go outside right now, even if it’s just for a minute.
Smelling the roses increases calm.
You’ve always heard that it’s powerfully positive to “stop and smell the roses.” Now science proves how right that is! Pause to take a whiff of these fragrant beauties, and you’ll feel soothing relaxation sweep over you within 60 seconds, according to research out of Japan. Aromatic compounds (citronellol and geraniol) that give roses their distinctive scent increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for helping your body and mind truly relax.
Having breakfast alfresco helps you lose weight.
Simply taking your breakfast to your patio helps melt pounds. Northwestern University scientists found women exposed to sunlight for 20 minutes between 8 and 9 am are up to 30 pounds leaner than those who don’t get sun until after noon. The morning light resyncs your internal body clock, which regulates your sleep schedule — a key component of weight loss. Want to boost your pound-shedding potential even more? Have some fruits and veggies with your breakfast. Harvard scientists found that women who upped their intake of produce and herbs by two servings a day were 12 pounds leaner than those eating less.
Filling a bird feeder lessens stress.
Luring more birds to your yard dispels stress in seconds — even when you can’t see them! A new Chinese study found that hearing melodious birdsong spurs calm by shifting your thoughts away from the present, allowing your brain to rest.
Going barefoot boosts your mood.
Becoming instantly happier is as easy as kicking off your sandals and walking barefoot in the grass. Feeling a soft, fuzzy texture against your skin triggers pleasant emotions as soon as you touch it, according to research published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition. That’s because over time, the brain becomes trained to associate touching soft surfaces like tender grass, a squishy pillow, or fluffy cats with enjoyable experiences. And every time you feel a similar texture, it automatically produces a happy feeling.
Savoring a breeze cheers you up.
When you need a quick pick-me-up, spend 10 seconds focusing on something that makes you feel good, such as a refreshing breeze on your face. French scientists say savoring positive moments (no matter how small) makes you more aware of other cheerful moments in your day, quickly increasing inner joy.
Standing in the yard improves creativity.
When thinking of a solution to a problem, gaze at grass, flowers, or other greenery. A new British study found that looking at nature scenes leads to a 31 percent increase in divergent (aka free-flowing) thinking, which prompts you to come up with more innovative solutions. Why? Nature’s beauty and complexity stimulate your creative juices.
Snapping a photo sharpens your memory.
When you spot something you want to remember, such as an adorable ladybug resting on a flower, you often take out your smartphone and snap a photo. Turns out, even if you never look at the image, you’ll still recall it later on. Why? Yale researchers report that just pressing the photo button tells your brain to concentrate more closely on what you’re seeing, which embeds it deeply into your memory center, so it sticks like glue.
Taking a break can lead to a breakthrough.
Stuck on a task? Step outside for just 60 seconds. Even a quick “joy break” resets your brain so you’re more open to new ideas, according to a study in Psychological Science.
Playing fetch strengthens your immune system.
To ward off colds, flu, and other viruses, toss a ball for your dog, chase down the ice-cream truck with your grandkids, or do anything fun that’s quick and high intensity. While chronic stress weakens the immune system, Stanford scientists say short bouts of “good” stress, like running, produce hormones (norepinephrine, epinephrine and cortisol) that bolster defenses by signaling immune cells to spread throughout the body, enabling them to better attack bacterial and viral invaders.
Looking at the stars eases inflammation.
Gazing at a colorful sunset, twinkling stars, or any scene that fills you with awe bolsters immunity by curbing the production of inflammation-triggering cytokines, a study in Emotion found.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.