How Nature Can Help You Fight the Winter Doldrums

Getting cabin fever from spending too much time indoors lately? Don’t despair. Research shows that regular contact with nature boosts physical and mental health as well as productivity and with a little imagination, even people who are stuck inside can reap these benefits.

You don’t need a big budget or floor-to-ceiling windows to bring the benefits of the outdoors in. With a little creativity, even worker bees toiling in windowless cubicles or residents of basement apartments can strengthen their healing connections to the outside world. To see for yourself, try these simple tips:

1. Look at Nature Photos

No window? No problem. Though nothing can truly replace the sounds, fragrances, fresh air and stimulation we get through genuine windows overlooking a glorious nature scene, we can’t all live and work in Yosemite. If you don’t have an actual view of the horizon, put up photographs, paintings, nature calendars or even postcards that simulate a long view of sky and earth. Stuck in front of your computer? Spend some time looking at nature photographs online.

Photographer2. Take Your Own Nature Photos

If you like looking at other people’s nature photos, why not take your own? You don’t have to travel far. Try taking photographs of wildlife and nature in your own backyard or neighborhood. Looking for tips to get you going? National Wildlife’s Photozone section has photography tips for beginning and more advance nature photographers. Here are tips for better winter photography and also some tips for photographing nature from a window for those days when it’s just too cold to go out.

3. Let There Be Light

Studies of office workers show that it’s not just being able to see outside that they crave, it’s also the movement of air and, especially, the shifting patterns of light that signal changes in the time of day and season. Access to daylight, where possible, or glowing or dappled light from track lights or sconces that scatter light against a wall can lift mood and productivity.

Windowsill-Plant_ChristopherWoods_219X2194. Grow Plants

Houseplants and window boxes of fragrant herbs or flowers literally add life to a room. Or how about some daydreaming and planning for your spring garden? Get tips on gardening for wildlife.

5. Play With Color

Even a single fresh bloom can add inexpensive delight to a table or desk, and that makes sense evolutionarily: In the wild, flowers are soon followed by fruit.

6. Talk to the Animals (and the Birds)

Research has repeatedly shown that friendly interaction with animals can ease depression, reduce blood pressure, and otherwise buffer stress and boost self-esteem. No time or space for pets? Put a bird feeder outside your window or offer to walk or play ball with a neighbor’s dog. Here are some tips for selecting the right bird seed.

7. Get Outside

Besides bringing nature indoors, try to make spending time outdoors a priority—even if it’s a short walk or outing. Here are some tips for keeping warm during outdoor walks and other activities.

Adapted from “Inviting the Outdoors In” by Deborah Franklin in the June 2006 issue of National Wildlife.