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Environment

Encore: Tips and tricks to find your footing outdoors

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Whether it's a hike in the woods or a walk down a tree-lined street, research has found that getting out into nature can lead to better health and boost your mood. But there's a learning curve to getting comfortable outside. Here's Gabrielle Horton with an encore presentation from NPR's Life Kit.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

GABRIELLE HORTON: For me, being outdoors often stirs up images of lush, green forests or snowy slopes. But smaller moments in nature, like walking my dog around the neighborhood or even listening to a rain sounds playlist before bed have been just as valuable. And they don't require the time, money or physical mobility of a big trip. And that's something that scientist Ming Kuo has been studying for years.

MING KUO: Nature includes everything from capital-N beautiful, spectacular, untouched wilderness all the way to a window box or having a view of squirrels from your office window.

HORTON: So it makes sense when Ming describes nature more like a multivitamin, which leads us to our first takeaway - get your daily dose of nature and experience a range of emotional and cognitive benefits.

KUO: If we get our breaks or even our micro restorative moments through the view outside, we recover some capacity to use that mental muscle so we can do things that are hard to do, and we can do them more easily and less painfully.

HORTON: And the cool thing about nature is that you don't have to be outdoors to experience its wonder. Not to mention, getting outside might not be accessible for a whole host of reasons. So that leads us to our next takeaway - bring nature into your world. That might include caring for a houseplants or a pet. Or maybe it looks like logging on to virtual aquarium tours and social media games. Herpetologist Earyn McGee created a #FindThatLizard for this very reason.

EARYN MCGEE: #FindThatLizard is a game that I run every Wednesday, and essentially I post a photo of a lizard camouflaged in its natural environment. And people have to find the lizard in the photo. They don't have to go outside.

HORTON: As you start playing your way through nature, you might realize that you want to share those experiences with others. So that's our next takeaway - find your adventure crew. It's a practical way to stay safe. And for those who haven't always seen themselves in the big outdoors, it's a good way to find your community. And plus-size explorer Ash Manning knows this firsthand.

ASH MANNING: I think being bigger, it's always been like, am I the only one doing this? The answer is no, absolutely not.

MANNING: Ash eventually found their people in a group called Unlikely Hikers. Other groups filling similar gaps and knocking down those barriers to access include Latino Outdoors, Disabled Hikers and Outdoor Afro, just to name a few. As you explore in community or on your own, take the time to learn about the rich indigenous history of the land, which is our final takeaway. Anthropologist Spirit Brooks recommends apps like Who's Land to help get you started.

SPIRIT BROOKS: This could be as simple as learning about the indigenous place names in your area for streams, for mountains, for parks, and then making an effort to learn about contemporary efforts to steward local native lands and sustainable ways by tribes.

HORTON: So no matter if you're playing nature games on your phone or spending time in the sun, I hope that you'll find your footing in the great outdoors because it's a beautiful thing no matter where you are. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.