You know how great you feel when you’re on a hike, at the beach, or enjoying a picnic on a beautiful day. But do you know why being in a natural setting feels so good? It turns out that spending time in nature doesn’t just soothe the mind—it actually changes our brains.

To give you more inspiration to get outdoors, here’s why many health experts refer to nature as Vitamin N:

Less negative thinking: Research out of Stanford University found that your physical environment affects blood flow to the region of the brain associated with brooding over how things have gone wrong. In the experiment, healthy adult volunteers who walked along tree-lined paths for 90 minutes saw reduced blood flow to the brooding brain center and reported less repetitive negative thinking, while those who walked along a busy highway saw no difference.

Improved memory and attention: In another study out of Stanford, participants who walked through the green, tranquil sections of campus for an hour reported less anxiety as well as improved performance on working memory challenges. And researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that kids with ADHD performed better on memory tests after they took a 20-minute walk in a park than they did after walks through a residential neighborhood or an urban environment.

More positive feelings: A Korean study found that participants who viewed images of cityscapes had more blood flow to the amygdala—the center of the brain associated with fear and anxiety—while those who looked at images of nature had more blood flow to the anterior cingulate and the insula, which are linked to kinder, gentler emotions such as empathy and altruism.

If you’d like to reap these benefits for yourself, here are three simple ways to spend more time in nature:

1. Look out the window more.
Bring nature to you! Open your shades and make it a point to look out the window more at work and at home. “Making a habit of taking in your physical environment attunes you to the here and now and reminds you of the cycles of life,” says Sophie Wadsworth, executive director of The Nature Connection. If you don’t have a window with a view at your desk, hang a photo of a natural scene and make a point to look at it while you’re on the phone, for example, instead of constantly staring at your computer screen.

2. Find a spot to sit and think.
Sometimes, the best way to experience nature is to simply be in it. “Wander until you find a spot your body wants to sit in. Then just be there for a while, noticing the environment,” advises Ben ‘Crow’ Page, a certified forest therapy guide. You can use the time to think or let your mind wander. “I’ve seen it time and again: When you put yourself in a natural spot with nothing in particular to do, you create space for revelations. Answers you never would have thought of before will come to you.”

3. Take a “noticing walk.”
“We get these ideas that in order to experience nature we have to go out and hike a mountain,” says Wadsworth. To get a Mother Nature fix, put on your sneakers and walk around the block, challenging yourself to actively notice the plants, animals, insects, sky, and clouds. “Even in downtown Boston, I’ve seen chicory growing up through the cracks in the sidewalk.” No matter where you live, nature is as close as the other side of your front door.