New Year’s resolutions are nothing new; people have been making (and breaking) them for thousands of years. While the effectiveness of this “new year, new you” sort of goal-setting has been studied with varying results, the idea of a fresh start (at a particularly meaningful time) is certainly a powerful one — a fresh start to improve your physical and mental health, to learn something new, to pick up a new hobby. Not-so-coincidentally, all three of those goals can be met in nature. Studies repeatedly show that being in nature benefits our bodies and minds. Here are a couple of Quinta Mazatlan’s nature resolutions you can use to start the new year:
Noticing Nature. One particularly meaningful way that nature helps us feel happier is through something called “soft fascination.” It’s an almost meditative state caused by simply existing in nature, not concentrating hard on particular activities but allowing our minds to gently shift from one thing to the next — such as a frog to a leaf or a tree to the soil — as we walk, sit, or lay in a natural setting.
Stephen and Rachel Kaplan, psychologists who study the relationship between people’s health and nature, call those sorts of moments “restorative experiences,” where people recover from mental fatigue. In some respects, this could be the easiest New Year’s resolution because all it takes is being in nature, whether it’s at a local park, your neighborhood, a nature center, or national wildlife refuge — wherever there are plants and animals sharing a space with you — and taking the time to be in that place.
Starting a Nature Hobby. While this option certainly does not preclude the previous one, it is a bit more focused. It is also quite varied, as there are many different hobbies you can pick up in nature. One straightforward hobby in nature is to try to learn how to recognize different species. This can be done with any animal group, from butterflies to beetles, trees to wildflowers, fish to reptiles, and more. For example, millions of people around the world consider themselves birders, or people that enjoy being around and recognizing species of birds. There are plenty of online resources to help you learn how to identify the organisms around you, but one that is growing in popularity is iNaturalist, a nature program (app and website) that connects people and uses computer vision to help identify organisms. It also helps keep track of what kinds of plants and animals you have documented and shared to its biodiversity database.
Of course, there are many more resolutions that could be tied to being in nature that you could explore. We hope you do! And even if you do not make New Year’s resolutions, spending time in nature is a great way to feel better and enjoy the world around you.