View of the sun shining through clouds

5 powerful health benefits you can get from going outside more

Plus, how to benefit if you live in the city or suburbs

It turns out that “touch grass” is pretty good advice. 

Though many of us enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, camping or kayaking, spending time in nature can provide tangible benefits in day-to-day life. An emerging body of research is helping us to understand how our time outside improves our overall well-being. As the evidence mounts, one thing is for certain: experiencing our natural surroundings can demonstrably impact our lives. 

1. Going outside helps with stress and improves attention

Americans are going outside less and spending more time staring at screens. In fact, most of us are looking at our phones or computers for more than 10 hours per day. At the same time, 76% of Americans reported health issues due to stress. According to the American Psychological Association, stress and attention levels are intertwined – and nature is a balm for both. Experiencing the outdoors leads to lower stress levels and higher attention spans, which ultimately creates a good cycle of feeling and performing better. 

2. The outdoors can help alleviate conditions like depression and anxiety 

In a wide-reaching analysis of studies from 40 studies spanning 20 years, researchers found that greenspace exposure is linked to less severe symptoms and fewer incidences of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. This doesn’t just apply to geographies known for their natural wonders. One study from the University of Pennsylvania found that after cleaning up and planting grass and other vegetation on vacant urban land, nearby residents reported a 41.5% decrease in feelings of depression. 

3. Outdoor activities are associated with better physical health 

There are straightforward benefits of spending time in nature, like an increase in Vitamin D. According to one study, about 22% of Americans have a Vitamin D deficiency. But there are broader health implications, too. An assessment of multiple studies indicates that sufficient time in nature is associated with lower blood pressure and improved cardiovascular health. It isn’t clear how the health benefits are derived, but research continues to confirm that we are healthier when surrounded by nature.

4. Nature provides us with a connection to our society

Studies show that time spent in nature can serve as a “buffer” that helps mitigate the negative effects for people who do not have much social connection like friends or family. In the simplest terms, even when people do not have satisfying human-to-human connections, living close to nature can still provide a sense of belonging. Additionally, outdoor spaces provide a setting where we can meet others — think dog parks, birdwatching areas or beaches — in a calming, organic environment. 

People walking in a public park
People walking in a public park

5. The experience can literally make life more meaningful 

Researchers are just beginning to understand the profound effects of what they call “awe.” Some might describe the feeling as a grounding, humbling, mystical or even ecstatic sense after witnessing the majesty of nature. This phenomenon has actually been shown to decrease materialism, increase civility and encourage generosity. It also helps people feel small, a counterintuitive notion that influences our sense of self. When we see that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves — and our day-to-day issues — our perspective can and does change.

But what if I don’t live near nature? 

Unfortunately, not all of us live within hiking distance to a picturesque waterfall or stunning mountain range. Even if we all had easy access to geographic gems, we don’t necessarily have ample time during the day to spend there.

Fortunately, researchers at Cornell have found that as little as 10 minutes a day can have positive benefits for people, and not just in “nature” as we might think of it. They studied areas like college campuses, urban parks, nature reserves and or any area with green and found that, measured against buildings and cement, the participants still showed positive effects from being outside.

Even then, there is evidence that “virtual nature” can even do in a pinch. In one study, students who were exposed to nature through pictures, videos and media conveyed through virtual reality headsets experienced less negative feelings like worry and panic. 

There are other ways to experience nature in urban environments, like simply growing plants in a balcony or backyard, or watching for birds while on a morning walk. Experts say that experiencing any of nature wherever you are is about mindfulness — explicitly focusing on the things around you when you are outdoors. 

In other words, whether you live near a beach or near a strip mall, find ways to experience nature a few minutes a day, every day, to reap health benefits.

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Charcuterie, cheese and wine spread at the Food and Wine Experience

Try our favorite picks at the Wine and Food Experience

Read on to learn the food, drinks and demos to get excited about

The USA Today Wine & Food Experience is making its highly-anticipated return to Phoenix this November. Presented by Talking Stick Resort and located on North Phoenix’s High Street, the open-air culinary showcase is set to highlight a number of the Valley’s top restaurants, spirits brands, celebrity chefs, exhibitors and special guests over the course of its single-day run. 

There is a lot of ground to cover and samples to savor, so we’ve put together a helpful roundup of everything you must eat, drink and do at the event. Here’s your guide to the Wine & Food Experience here in Phoenix.

Sushi, saganaki and upscale cuisine: The can’t-miss restaurants that should be on your radar

Uchi Scottsdale

Fans of Chef Tyson Cole’s acclaimed Austin, Texas Japanese restaurant have something to look forward to this year — Uchi is opening a new outpost in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale. Until the ribbon is cut, satisfy those cravings for unparalleled sushi and sashimi at the USA Today Wine & Food Experience where Uchi will be sampling a selection of their best bites alongside a lineup of top Arizona restaurants exclusively to VIP ticket holders. There’s a lot of good reasons to go VIP. And, this is definitely one of those reasons. 

Cala at Senna House

Send your taste buds on a trip abroad at this year’s Wine & Food Experience, no passport required. From Spain and Italy to Greece and Morocco, Cala is Scottsdale’s premier destination for Mediterranean-inspired, coastal cuisine. Cala’s culinary team is headed by Celebrity Chef Beau MacMillan and Executive Chef Peter McQuaid who have put together incredible feats to eat like the flaming saganaki, an appetizer that’s literally set ablaze at your table, and the lemon ricotta pancakes, a divine brunch dish that’s served with a vanilla chantilly cream. We don’t know if Cala will take a sweet or savory approach at this year’s festival, but whatever this duo brings to the VIP section will certainly be delicious.

Three Thirty Three

The Arizona dining scene is hungry for a new, upscale restaurant. And, eager epicureans are getting exactly that. Set to debut in spring 2024, Three Thirty Three is bringing high-end Asian cuisine to the waterfront district at Tempe Town Lake. While the full menu is still under wraps, sneak peeks include dishes like peking duck with caviar, aged wagyu tomahawk and an assembly of impressive craft cocktails to wash it all down. Three Thirty Three will be serving up a taste of what they’ll be offering when the restaurant debuts next year to VIP fest-goers; think of it as an amuse-bouche leading up to the full restaurant experience.  

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Brews, bubbles and tequila: Take a sip from these three beverage brands 

Huss Brewing Co. 

Husband and wife owned Huss Brewing Co. is best known for their unmistakable cans of Papago Orange Blossom and the German Kolsch Scottsdale Blonde. And for good reason, too. The locally-brewed beers are not just tasty, Scottsdale Blonde is a U.S. Open Beer Championship winner and Orange Blossom is the brewery’s best-selling beer. Whether you’re into IPAs or Amber Ales, you can sip through the entire family of Huss’ craft beers at this year’s Wine & Food Experience. And, you might even discover a new favorite. 

Big Marble Organics 

If there’s one thing you should know about Big Marble, it’s that the Arizona-based beverage brand brings big flavor. From organic ginger beer to proper lemon, Big Marble is set to show off their lineup of bubbly soft drinks and fizzy mixers at this year’s Phoenix Wine & Food Experience, keeping you quenched as you eat your way around the culinary event. 

Rancho La Gloria Premium Tequilas

It’s believed that the very first margarita was mixed at Rosarito Beach, Mexico’s Rancho La Gloria Hotel in 1938. Since that first rim was salted, Rancho La Gloria has taken the name of the iconic hotel and has grown to become the nation’s top-selling ready-to-drink margarita brand. The agave masters from Rancho La Gloria will showcase their award-winning single-estate tequilas, pre-mixed margs, seltzers and wines at this year’s event, much to the delight of tequila drinkers. 

Group of friends socializing with glasses of wine

Must-do demos: Get in on the action with these vendors

Mixology Demonstrations by TalkTales Entertainment

Keeping in the spirit of, well, spirits, the industry experts from TalkTales Entertainment will be hosting mixology demonstrations at this year’s event. Open to VIP ticket holders, the immersive classes will teach you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the world of mixology, minus the boring classroom setting or homework. 

Floral Arranging from Flowers by Laura Dowling 

Florist Laura Dowling’s resume is undeniably impressive. The author and former White House Chief Floral Designer is not only providing her beautiful decorative blooms for the event, she’ll be sharing some of her best floral design secrets, too. Join Laura and your fellow anthophiles for an informative floral arrangement demonstration where you can learn how to make your very own arrangement. Those newly-found skills might just come in clutch during the holiday season. 

Learn more about the USA Today Wine & Food Experience today

Tickets for this year’s USA Today Wine & Food Experience in Phoenix are going fast. Be sure to purchase your General Admission ($60) or VIP Admission ($95) in advance for special early bird pricing. To note, VIP Admission includes early entry, exclusive admission to the VIP lounge, and a souvenir tasting cup. Browse all admission options here

Ready to plan your own experience? See a full list of the participating restaurants, spirits brands, and more right here. And, for more insider information about the foodie-centric events, sign up to receive the best-of-the-best from Localite.

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Cup of hot cocoa surrounded by Dia de los Muertos decorations

Where to find 5 traditional Dia de los Muertos dishes in Phoenix

Have your own feast for the dead in celebration of the holiday

There are three types of death in Mexico: The first is when your heart stops beating. The second is when your body is consigned to the earth. The third, and perhaps most tragic, is the last time someone says your name. 

In Mexican culture, those loved and lost are never forgotten. For more than 3,000 years, beginning with ancient Zapotec, Mayan and Aztec cultures, the country has celebrated Dia de los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead. It is believed that during this annual holiday, which takes place Nov. 1-2, the souls of the deceased returned to their families, ensuring that their memories and spirits live on.

“Dia de los Muertos is a time when we remember our ancestors,” says Carmen Guerrero, executive director of Cultural Coalition, a nonprofit organization that promotes the culture and artists of Latino and indigenous communities in Arizona. For the past 12 years, Cultural Coalition has produced Mikiztli (pronounced meeh-keesh-tleeh), a multi day celebration of the dead that takes place in Steele Indian School Park in Central Phoenix.

The name of the festival, Mikiztli, comes from the Nahuatl, or ancient Aztec, word “mihcailhuitl,” which translates to “the feast of the spirit.” And feasting plays an important role in the holiday.

“During Dia de los Muertos, families go to the cemetery. They clean the graves, they bring flowers, they picnic on top of the graves. It’s like a festival. Mariachis play music. Everybody burns incense and copal, an aromatic resin used by the Mayans and Aztecs. And there’s lots of food,” Guerrera explains.

At home, families build ofrendas, or altars, for their ancestors. Decorated with calacas (skeletons), papel picado (colorful paper flags with intricate perforated designs) and real or paper marigolds, the altars welcome the deceased with their favorite items, including drinks, cigarettes, chocolate and foods.

Snack table adorned with fall and Dia de los Muertos decor

“It all depends on what your ancestor liked to eat,” Guerrera says. “I remember telling my kids that my mother’s favorite food was pineapple. That’s the kind of thing most children don’t know about their grandparents. But in Mexican culture, we are very much aware of that.”

While each family’s meals and altars differ depending on their loved ones’ tastes, a number of dishes are associated with the holiday. We’ve selected five of the most iconic foods for you to serve to your guests — living and dead — during your next Dia de los Muertos gathering.  

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Pan de muerto

Literally translated into “bread of the dead,” this traditional sweet bread is a must-have for any Dia de los Muertos party or altar. Slightly crispy with a doughy center, it traditionally is flavored with anise seeds and orange zest and sprinkled with sugar, although regional variations include sesame seeds, cinnamon and even colored sugar. The round loaf symbolizes the circle of life and is decorated on top with knobby strips of dough that represent a skull, crossbones and tears.

Most Mexican panaderias (bakeries) throughout the Valley offer their own versions of the bread beginning in mid-October. 

Where to find it:

Los Altos Ranch Market
7 locations throughout Phoenix, Mesa and Chandler
cardenasmarkets.com

Antigua Bakery
3605 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
8240 W. Lower Buckeye Rd. #105, Phoenix

Pandería Cristal
6402 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale
623-931-1057

Dish stacked with an assortment of tamales

Tamales

A mainstay of Mexican cuisine, tamales, or tamals, are enjoyed throughout the year, but they’re also a popular Dia de los Muertos food placed on altars and consumed during the long nights of celebration.

Each region of Mexico has a different variation of the simple corn-based dough filled with ingredients and wrapped in corn husks. Whether it’s the green chile pork or chicken served in Mexico City, the bold mole negro filling that’s popular in Oaxaca or the beloved rajas con queso (poblano peppers and cheese) that’s common in the north-central state of Zacatecas, tamales are thought to serve as a host for visiting spirits. As an offering, sweet tamales are for children, while spicy ones are for adult souls.

Where to find them:

The Tamale Store
15842 N Cave Creek Rd, Phoenix
thetamalestore.com

La Purisima Bakery 2
2318 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix
purisimabakery.com

Mole negro

Made from charred chiles — usually chilhuacle negro, guajillo, pasilla or ancho — and chocolate, this deeply flavored black sauce originated in Oaxaca, home of one of the largest and most traditional Dia de los Muertos celebrations in Mexico. Because it is time-consuming to make, mole negro often is reserved for special celebrations, such as weddings and funerals, when it is served over chicken or turkey or in tamales. During the holiday, families share the dish with their living visitors as well as the dead, who are enticed back into the world of the living by the tasty treat.

Where to find it:

Mole
Guelaguetza Productos Oaxaqueños
10171 N. 19th Ave., #4, Phoenix
602-516-6660

Socorro’s
facebook.com/SocorrosMole

Pozole

This savory stew is a Mexican culinary institution. Hominy, a nixtamalized corn, and meat, usually pork or chicken, are seasoned with spices and chiles to create red (rojo), green (verde) and white (blanco) varieties — the colors of the Mexican flag. The popular dish is consumed throughout the year, but in some areas, such as Mexico City, it is a staple of Dia de los Muertos meals. An extra spicy red pozole, flavored with an abundance of red chiles for added heat, is commonly served during the holiday; it is accompanied by tortillas and cold beer.

Where to find it:

Pozoleria Mexican Food
2801 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix
pozoleriamexican.com

Anaya’s Fresh Mexican Restaurant
3 locations in Tempe, Glendale and Casa Grande
Anayasrestaurant.online

Hot chocolate

Mexican cultures have been drinking chocolate for thousands of years. Early Aztecs believed that cocoa helped the dead transition to the other world but also had the power to bring them back to life. Today, the rich drink is the main beverage for both the living and the dead during Dia de los Muertos, and it is the perfect complement to pan de muerto. Typically, Mexican hot chocolate consists of a mixture of chocolate (usually Abuelita or Ibarra brand), milk, brown sugar and chili powder. Some recipes call for cinnamon, while a version with masa harina, a corn dough typically used to make tamales, is known as champurrado.

Where to find it:

Tres Leches Cafe
1714 W. Van Buren St., Phoenix
treslechesaz.com

Los Altos Ranch Market
7 locations throughout Phoenix, Mesa and Chandler
cardenasmarkets.com

Food City
Locations throughout the Valley
myfoodcity.com

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