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Want to Be Happier? Gretchen Rubin Says Spend 23 Minutes Outdoors Every Day

Gretchen Rubin is a happiness connoisseur, and she says no matter what you’re trying to achieve, going outside will almost always help you reach your goal. Rubin is the New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Project, she co-hosts a podcast called HAPPIER with Gretchen Rubin, and she has a new book out called Life in Five Senses

Rubin sat down with Outdoors.com to talk about her projects, including the Go Outside 23 in 23 challenge, which encourages people to spend at least 23 minutes outside every day in 2023.  

Three Million Minutes Outside and Counting

On the heels of challenges like Walk 20 in 20, Read 21 in 21, and Rest 22 in 22, Rubin says for 2023, she and her sister/co-host of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast were looking for a way to help listeners feel happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative. 

“We knew that people had this craving to go outside . . . and there’s something about having this structure and kind of everybody’s doing it and the sense that you know there’s a consistent focus on it [when you] keep reminding people of it.” 

Gretchen Rubin on why the outdoors can make you happier.

Rubin says wonderful things happen when we go outside—from the physiological benefits of balancing our circadian rhythms to the psychological benefits of engaging more fully and completely with the world around us. 

“So many great things come when you engage with nature and you engage with the weather, and you feel so much more alive when you have the weather,” she says. “And often people are exercising or at least moving around [when they’re outside], and there’s so many great things that come from that. Often we engage, like you see your neighbors or you run into a puppy, so it just seemed like one of these things where everybody knows that it’s something that makes them happier, but they just need a little bit of a nudge, a little bit of a reminder to make it part of their daily life.”

As of April, Rubin’s efforts had already inspired her fans to spend more than three million total minutes outdoors.  

“Everybody knows [spending time outside is] something that makes them happier, but they just need a little bit of a nudge, a little bit of a reminder to make it part of their daily life.” 

Gretchen Rubin

Exploring Life in Five Senses

Rubin’s latest book, Life in Five Senses, encourages readers to really soak up their surroundings using their senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. She says for some people, being in nature is meditative—à la forest bathing—and for others, it’s more about moving their bodies. 

“I think one of the great things about going outside is no matter what you’re trying [. . .] to achieve, going outside will support you in that aim,” Rubin explains. “If you want to calm down, it’ll help you. If you want to pump up, it will help you. If you want to get creative, it will help you. If you wanna be more productive, it will help you. If you want to feel healthier, it’ll help you. It’s just something that works in so many ways.”

Whenever someone does something mindfully, Rubin thinks the activity becomes more meaningful. She says: “When you go outside, it’s one thing to sort of mindlessly walk your dog around the block and just be thinking about your to-do list. But if you really say when I go outside, I really want to experience outside, like how does the air feel different against my face? How does the ground feel different underneath my feet?”

While Rubin is quick to say that you can connect with your senses and experience moments in a deeper way indoors and while walking through a city street that isn’t necessarily “nature,” she also says that spending time in nature often helps get us out of our own heads and provides a sense of transcendence. “And it doesn’t have to be the Grand Canyon,” she quips. “I mean, even if you just see a flower, a tree with flowering blossoms—I mean, it just will take your breath away.” 

Would you be up for spending 23 minutes outdoors every day for the rest of the year? Tell us in the comments below.

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