Could getting some fresh air help both you and the planet?

As much as we love watching TV and playing video games, wouldn’t you rather be frolicking in frost-covered fields with the wind in your hair? No?

Maybe not. But you have to admit there’s nothing like a walk in the fresh air to clear your mind and get that blood pumping. It’s called the great outdoors, after all.

We’re often told to “go and get some fresh air” to feel better after an argument, a long day of revision, or a weekend spent on the sofa - but could spending time outside with nature benefit the planet too?

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A national survey on people and nature by Natural England in 2018 (the most recent Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Report), showed that more people than ever are spending time outdoors.

According to the report, the proportion of adults leaving their houses (shocking, we know), and visiting nature at least once a week increased from 54% in 2010 to 62% in 2018.

It was reported that health and exercise were the main ‘motivations’ for spending time with nature - over half of all visits.

Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind, explained why getting outside can be good for our mental health, as well as our physical health.

“The colours, sounds and smells of the outdoors stimulate our senses in a way that indoor environments usually don’t. Getting into a relaxing outside space can provide a welcome distraction from any negative or intrusive thoughts, allows us to switch off from everyday pressures and help relieve stress,” he said.

A 'broken relationship'

But when it comes to the environment, it’s not just about what nature can do for us.

In May 2019, the UK Parliament declared an environment and climate emergency, and climate change protests around the country have shown that public concern for the environment is high.

BBC Bitesize spoke to Miles Richardson, Professor of Human Factors and Nature Connectedness at the University of Derby. Professor Richardson explained how spending time with nature can be mutually beneficial for our own well-being, and for the natural environment.

According to Professor Richardson, the current climate and wildlife emergency shows that the existing relationship between people and the rest of nature is “broken” and ”nature connectedness” he believes, is one way to combat this.

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Reconnecting with nature

Nature connectedness is more than just spending time with nature. Professor Richardson describes it as “the strength of your feelings towards nature and whether you feel part of the wider natural world.”

He told Bitesize that being more connected to nature not only helps people “feel happy and good about themselves”, but can bring about “pro-nature behaviours”.

These can be things like reducing your carbon footprint, recycling or conservation.

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Turning over a new leaf

With winter well underway, it’s hard to see how we can become more connected with nature when it’s so cold and dark outside.

But Professor Richardson said there are small things we can do, even in the winter months, to start rebuilding a relationship with the natural world, and help ourselves along the way.

“Simply noticing the ‘good things in nature’ each day helps improve nature connectedness and mental health,” he said.

He recommended writing down three good things that you see in nature each day. This could be a fallen leaf you notice on your way to school, or the pattern on a bird’s feathers.

Tweet us @BBCBitesize to tell us what good things you see in nature.

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