Five Ways Nature Can Boost Your Health and Happiness

Nature is one of the best healers around when it comes to mental and physical health.

And it takes only 20 minutes outdoors to reap its benefits. Here are five scientifically-proven reasons why you need to head outdoors today and every day.

1. It’ll improve your mental health

monarch womanBeing in and around nature lowers the heart rate and creates a sense of inner peace and happiness. According to researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, it takes only 20 minutes outdoors to reap the benefits of feeling happier. In the study, 64 per cent of the 94 participants showed an increase in life satisfaction after 20 minutes in a park.

2. It’ll boost your physical health too

biking sunrise

Give your immune system a little boost by spending some time outdoors, from getting your daily vitamin D dose to exposure to a variety of bacteria from grass dust and dirt. Vitamin D is particularly helpful to keep our muscles, bones and teeth healthy.

3. It’ll help you tackle stress

woman outside stress free

Feeling tired, stressed or stuck? Take a break and head outside! Being outdoors is proven to lower concentrations of cortisol, pulse rate, blood pressure and sympathetic nerve activity. It is shown that being outdoors gives a creativity boost to tackle whatever problem you’ve been dealing with in your life.

4. It’ll restore you and give you an energy boost

senior couple hiking

Let’s face it, the reality is that humans spend a lot of time indoors on social media and computers. Spending time outdoors increases both physical and mental energy and feel more alive in as little as 20 minutes.

5. It could help you sleep better

woman outside sleep grass

We could all use a little extra zzzzs! A 2015 study published in Preventive Medicine found that those of 255,000 adults who have access to natural spaces slept better! So head out outside for 20 minutes of fresh air and walk your way to a better snooze tonight.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything.”
– Albert Einstein


There are many, many more reasons we should all be spending more time outdoors. Nature teaches us to become quieter and slow down our pace of living. It teaches us to really listen and truly feel like we are one with the earth. It teaches us to live in the moment – to enjoy the small things in life like watching the pace of nature and listening to the birds, hearing the trees sway and creek along with the wind.

The truth is nature teaches us far more than what we’ll ever be able to learn from a book.

How does being outside in nature make you feel? Let us know!

Ladies, the Heat is On!

Animals That Go Through Menopause

You’ve got the air-conditioning cranked. You’ve invested in a white noise machine to help you get a little sleep. And your patience is wearing thin in a whole new way these days. There’s nothing fun about going through menopause, but ladies, did you know we’re not the only ones in the animal kingdom that suffer through it?

To be frank, we’re an oddity. Most animals keep on popping out babies until they reach old age. However, many toothed whales work a lot more like humans do where they reproduce for a number of years and then, when those years come to an end, they’ll keep right on trucking.

Let’s take a look at some animals in the wild that go through menopause:

1. Short-finned Pilot Whales

Pilot whale mom and calf | Photo @ Clair EversThese whales can live up to 60 years. That is, if they’re female. Males usually die around the age of 45. Female Short-finned Pilot Whales reach sexual maturity when they turn about 10 years old. Once they reach that age they’ll begin to have their calves every five to eight years until they reach menopause.

2. Belugas

Beluga pod | Photo: Shafik Diwan, CWF Photo Club

Belugas are long-lived creatures. They can live up to 75 years in the wild. That’s a lot of birthday candles to blow out! Females reach sexual maturity between eight and 14 years of age. Once they do, they will go on to have calves (one at a time) about every three years, until they reach menopause.

3. Narwhals

Narwhals

Female Narwhals reach sexual maturity between eight and 12 years of age. After which, they’ll have one calf at a time. They usually give birth to a new calf every three years, although it may even be longer. Eventually, their reproductive years end and they move into menopause, living up to 50 years (although most live less than 30 years).

4. Killer Whales

killer whales | Photo: Kari Watkins, CWF Photo Club

Killer Whales don’t live quite as long as these other whale species. Males will live on average 30 years, while females can expect to live until about 50 years of age. These social marine mammals don’t give birth to their first calf until they are about 15 years old. Once their reproductive years are through, they will take care of their young’s calves. Talk about a tight knit family!

What’s the Point?

So what’s the point of going through menopause and living on into our golden years? To be honest, it’s a bit of a mystery. Some researchers argue that we can thank the grandmother hypothesis. This idea suggests that older females will opt to support their grandbabies instead of going on to bear more of their own children or young.

While this idea works for social creatures like the Killer Whale, not all whale species are as social. And also…wouldn’t species like elephants evolve to have menopause? They’re awfully social and take care of their grandchildren and yet there are no signs that they go through menopause.

There doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer as to why menopause exists in animals yet. What do you think?

Top 10 Species Finds on iNaturalist.ca

iNaturalist.ca has reached 1 million!

iNaturalist Canada (also known as iNaturalist.ca) has hit a major milestone – more than 1 million verifiable observations in Canada. These confirmed sightings span from Canada’s East Coast to the western edges of British Columbia, and from Southern Saskatchewan all the way up to the most northern reaches of the country.

This proves that Canadians are interacting with nature using their smartphone or digital cameras to document and geo-locate wildlife in our vast country.

Canadians are also reporting some really cool discoveries.

Not only does this help provide valuable information for conservation, there are some interesting tidbits in there for all of us. Also, with iNaturalist’s auto ID feature you can hold a field identification tool in the palm of your hand.

To celebrate, let’s take a look at 10 fascinating species reported on iNaturalist Canada:

1. New Species to Canada!

Paintedhand mudbug | Photo: colindjones
Paintedhand mudbug | Photo: colindjones

The Paintedhand Mudbug. This is actually a species of crayfish, not a bug at all. Thanks to some hard work by Colin Jones from the Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre the first ever occurrence of this species was recorded in Canada using iNaturalist.ca.

2. Carnivorous Plants

Purple Pitcher Plant and the Great Sundew. These carnivorous plants are not species from an exotic corner of the world. In fact they are entirely native to Canada and you can find one or both of these in every province and territory. Don’t be alarmed, they only feed on small insects!

3. The Monarch Butterfly

Monarch | Photo james_cwf
Monarch | Photo james_cwf

The Monarch Butterfly is the most reported species at risk on iNaturalist.ca with more than 4,400 observations! Only the Mallard, Canada Goose and Grey Squirrel were reported more times than this at-risk butterfly.

4. The Spiny Softshell Turtle

Spiny Softshell Turtle | Photo Samuel Brinker
Spiny Softshell Turtle | Photo Samuel Brinker

This freshwater turtle is also probably one of Canada’s most unique. Found in only a handful of places in the country, its shell is flexible and leathery, as its name suggests, as opposed to the typical hard shell of most turtles.

5. The Fjaeldmark Dwarf Weaver

This arachnid is the most northern record of all the observations in the global iNaturalist system! It was recorded on a tiny island off the northern tip of Ellesmere Island – that’s over 2,100 kilometres north of Iqaluit!

6. Giant Hogweed

Giant Hogweed | Photo cchapman
Giant Hogweed | Photo cchapman

Possibly the tallest herbaceous (non-woody) plant to be found in Canada, the Giant Hogweed grows up to 5.5 metres (that’s 18 feet)! But it’s not from Canada, thus an invasive species. It is also highly poisonous. Getting the sap on your skin can cause burns, kind of like poison ivy but much worse.

7. The Wood Duck

Wood Duck | Photo jaliya
Wood Duck | Photo jaliya

This dabbler is one of the most colourful birds we have in Canada. It can be found in every province, as well as in Nunavut.

8. The Cougar

Cougar | Photo by kokanee
Cougar | Photo by kokanee

Also known as the North American Mountain Lion, this feline is one of the more elusive animals in Canada and getting a photo at a safe distance can be tricky! A trail camera managed to snap a unique close-up of this feline.

9. The Magnificent Bryozoan

Bryozoan | Photo alisonforde
Bryozoan | Photo alisonforde

This is not algae. A colony of organisms — called zoids — forms a solid mass called a bryozoan. This one was found during the 2017 Stanley Park Bioblitz (as part BioBlitz Canada 150) and made headlines as “The Blob of Lost Lagoon.” There are only 34 of these recorded in iNaturalist.ca.

10. Ochre Sea Star

Ochre Sea Star | Photo imcote
Ochre Sea Star | Photo imcote

This heap of sea stars was recorded on the ocean floor off the western coast of Vancouver Island. iNaturalist.ca can be used anywhere — even under water!

Think of it as social media meets conservation science.

iNaturalist.ca is a place where users can upload sightings of what they’ve seen in nature. The community can then comment on the find and help with identifying the species. This adds to the growing database throughout the country to provide a clearer picture of Canada’s biodiversity. The information can then be used for conservation purposes, such as keeping track of endangered species.

Once you have the free app and an account, snap a photo of what you see in nature and upload. The built-in auto ID can recognize most species. The app works entirely offline, but you’ll need a data plan or wifi to upload any observations you’ve logged in the app. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can upload straight to iNaturalist.ca on your desktop computer (the image recognition works there too).

iNaturalist Canada is a member of the iNaturalist Network, a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic Society, which means that this information feeds into an initiative to track biodiversity worldwide.

What do you think is the most interesting observation on iNaturalist Canada? Head to iNaturalist.ca to check out what people are recording and then paste a link to the observation’s url in the comment section below!

7 ways to get cozy outdoors this fall!

Introduce a little hygge in your life as the temperatures dip

I don’t know about you, but there’s something about fall that makes me want to hibernate. Light all the candles. Read all the books.

It turns out, I’m not alone.

Finding happiness in the cozy things in life is a way of life in Denmark. They call it ‘hygge’. And while hunkering down indoors for the cold months ahead is one way to go about it, there are plenty of ways to embrace the simple things this autumn in the great outdoors.

We’ve got seven ways to hygge outdoors this autumn to help you enjoy the crisp, cool weather!

Go on a Picnic

picnic

Autumn is the perfect occasion for a picnic. Pack warm meals like soup, stew, chili or curry, and stay comfortable with a large knitted sweater and thick socks. Note: the Danes strongly believe that sweet treats are an important part of hygge. So make sure you pack chocolate, cookies or cakes along with your hot meal.

Rent a Cabin

campfire by cabin

Head to a cabin in the woods with some friends. You can go on hikes during the day and have bonfires at night. Don’t forget ingredients for s’mores!

And if it rains, embrace it. You can curl up indoors for an hour or two with board games and head back outside when the storm clears out.

Help Wildlife this Fall

yellow fall leaves

You might be tempted to rake all the fallen leaves in your backyard, but make sure you leave some areas alone. Many wildlife species rely on brush piles to hide from their predators and seek shelter there.

Go ahead and put up a birdfeeder as well. Many migratory bird species are fattening up at this time of year to give them enough fuel for the long journey ahead. The wildlife in your backyard will thank you!

Go Apple Picking

go apple picking

Nothing says fall like biting into a tart apple, right? Grab a basket and head to an orchard in your neighbourhood. Better yet, invite your best friends along for the fun. When you’ve stocked your basket enough, head home together and prepare an apple crisp to share. Yum!

Do an Autumn Scavenger Hunt

fall forest

Round up the kiddos in your life and head outdoors for an autumn themed scavenger hunt. You’ll want to look high and low for a Sugar Maple Tree, Balsam Poplar, Yellow Birch, Red Oak and all the beautiful beautiful trees in your neck of the woods. While you’re at it, pick up fallen leaves, acorns and pinecones too – they’d make lovely decorations in your home!

Take a Walk in the Woods

hike fall forest

There’s nothing more soothing than hearing the sound of leaves crunching under foot. There’s so much hustle and bustle in our lives that it’s important to make a mental note to slow down. Take a long slow walk in the woods. Listen to the sound of leaves crunching underfoot. Challenge yourself to keep your phone tucked away in your pocket – no scrolling through your Facebook feed! It’s time to disconnect and really appreciate the beauty around you. Bonus points if you bring Fido along!

Gaze at the Night Sky

stargazing camping winter tent

The sun is setting earlier these days and there couldn’t be a better excuse to enjoy a little star gazing. Grab your loved one, a big fluffy blanket to wrap around the two of you, and a glass of warm apple cider and look up. Way up! You can even download an app to help you navigate all the dots in the sky.

A hygge lifestyle invites you to enjoy the present moment. Every season is a gift. Autumn will be gone before you know it so embrace it! After your autumnal outdoor adventures, keep up coziness at home too. Light some candles, curl up on the couch with a cozy blanket and a cup of tea. Take a deep breath and enjoy where you are, right this minute. Have a lovely fall, everyone!

Learn more ways to Connect with Wildlife with the Canadian Wildlife Federation.