Going outside can make you happier

Last updated 13:00 15/01/2014
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FRESH AIR: Experiencing New Zealand' beautiful nature can do wonders for you.

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Getting a slice of nature while on your summer break will recharge your batteries - literally.

We often think of nature as being pretty or inspiring - whether a potted plant or a beach sunrise - but research shows nature also has a  restorative power   to help us recover from stress and fatigue.

Work done by health professionals, psychologists and ecologists suggests nature benefits people in many ways, helping support and protect us from stress, anxiety and depression.

If you live in in an urban environment, crisscrossed with roads and crowded by buildings, then it is likely that a change of environment will help you recover from the last year's stress.

Camping, a bit of fishing, or visiting a winery to watch the sun set over the vineyard, all involve nature.

And if you can't get out of town, or you're already back at work, you can still benefit from nature at home.

Go to the beach for a morning swim, catch-up with the gardening, get out on a boat for lunch, or take the kids to the zoo on the weekend.

Instead of sitting inside, staring at a computer screen, or fighting your way through traffic, all of these outdoor activities involve nature in some way.

Activities that are different from what you do in your everyday life, especially activities that involve nature, can help you feel like you're really having a break.

In other words, you don't have to travel to a rainforest in Borneo to benefit from nature - a walk or jog through a park, particularly one with trees, has been found to lower stress and improve mental wellbeing.

The impact of nature may be more significant for those who live in cities.

Three quarters of New Zealanders  live in urban areas, so it is important to think about how our environment impacts our wellbeing.

So whether you're enjoying a holiday, or just taking a break from work at home, nature may be making you happier and healthier, and your holiday more effective.

Lucy Taylor is a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney

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