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The ‘Great Canadian Outdoors’ Is Good For Your Mental Health

photo credit / outer shores expeditions

Just 120 minutes spent outside in nature each week can boost your mental health and happiness. Those are the findings from a new study in Scientific Reports, which looked at the effects of the great outdoors on nearly 20,000 subjects. It found that a mere two hours a week spent, for example, reading in the park, swimming in a lake, or hiking through a forest leads to both better physical and mental health.

As Canadians, we don’t need any extra encouragement to get outside in the summer, but while we’re basking in the sun at the cottage it might be a good time to consider some ways to get a dose of Canadian wilderness that doesn’t end in a nap on the dock. Here are three more ways to take it all in:

Get out on the water

photo credit / james thompson

Whether you’re riding the Toronto Island Ferry ($7.50, roundtrip) or sailing from one corner of BC’s Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (more expensive, but Outer Shores’ West Coast Wilderness expeditionis on our Canadian dream trip bucket list) getting out on the water might be the best way to spend time outdoors. In the summer season, the wind and water are like Mother Nature’s own A/C and the perspective you get from a boat is so different from what you see on land.

Toronto’s skyline looks dreamy from the ferry, while touring the waters of Vancouver Island’s Barkley Sound aboard an Outer Shores wooden schooner is an incredible way to see stunning beaches, coastal rainforests, and gray whales as they migrate each year. Whatever your budget, make time to spend time on the water ASAP — serious Canadian bonus points if you carve your own canoe.

 

Park yourself in a park

photo credit / dimitri tyan

Can’t escape the city this summer? No problem, there are still ways to get your nature fix. Urban Canadians are lucky to have a network of city parks where we can unwind with a book, organize an impromptu picnic, play a game of pick up soccer, or string up a hammock (or slackline, if you must).

If you’re visiting another city this summer, make sure to check out some local parks. A few that we love include Vancouver’s Stanley Park, Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park as well and the more laid-back High Park, Montreal’s Mount Royal Park, and Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg. And don’t forget the municipal outdoor swimming pools — show your local Parks and Rec department some love this summer, too.

 

Pitch a tent — even if it’s in your own backyard

photo credit / mike erskine

Come on, Canada — is it even summer if you don’t spend at least one night sleeping under the stars? There are a million ways to camp: Buy or borrow a tent and set off to explore a local Provincial Park for a few nights. Load up the car and camp cross-country (nightly camping passes from Parks Canada are cheap). Escape an overcrowded cottage by showing up with your exclusive accommodations (read: a tent, because beach camping = the best camping). Or simply set up a tent in your own backyard (the neighbour’s kids will be so jealous).

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