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Outdoor Recreation Can Increase Your Happiness

Fresh air and sunshine play a big role in your mental health

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Physical activity is a stress-relieving outlet for many people, whether it's something vigorous like white-water rafting or something more casual like walking on a treadmill while you watch Netflix. While different places across America have some form of recreation you can participate in, some offer the ideal mix of good weather and varied activities, which can help both your mental and physical health.

Cool Pictures of Nature Around the World

It’s common to get tired of working out at the same gym every day or running the same paths near your home. Your body becomes accustomed to the work it’s doing, and your mind-to-muscle connection decreases. Living in a neighborhood, city or state that has activities such as water sports, walking trails, horseback riding and rock climbing offers more in the way of creative workouts. Not only are the workouts more creative, but they also allow you to interact with nature. Studies have shown that natural environments can boost feelings of relaxtion and increase positivity, thus a stronger tendency to feel happy. 

Green exercise — working out in nature — may help restore your attention to the physical motions you are putting your body through. If you’re on new hiking trail through a national park, you might have to navigate rock formations and focus on your foothold. If you’re kayaking on a river, your arm and back muscles will work differently than when you use a rowing machine in the gym.

Living near outdoor recreation also means you have quicker access to it. If you can hit the trails for a half-hour during your lunch break at work, that’s 30 minutes of raising your heart rate, 30 minutes of burning calories and 30 minutes of lowering your blood pressure. The benefits will show when you return to your desk refreshed and ready to finish your tasks for the day.

Another difference between an outdoor workout and an indoor workout is your exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is crucial to energy levels. Unlike other vitamins or minerals, though, you don’t need much of it to maintain sufficient levels. If you live near a lake, river or ocean, take a few minutes out of your day to walk the beach or shoreline and bask in the sun. If you live near a park, go for a jog around a footpath.

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Overall, nature might lead you to feel more relaxed, less stressed and more energized — all which contribute to the sensation of happiness. Sometimes, even bright sunlight and inviting nature aren’t enough to keep people content. While outdoor recreation is a positive way to boost your energy and increase happiness, there are other components of daily life that contribute to high spirits. Do you live in one of the states that on average has a good work-life balance, gets sufficient sleep and has low unemployment rates? What about a safe state or one that has high rates of volunteerism? If so, where you live might be one of the happiest states in America.