Benefits of Being Outside
In today’s fast-paced society, we seem to be spending more and more time indoors. Our jobs see us getting to the office earlier, and leaving later. When we get home it’s usually for a quick meal and then park ourselves on the couch to scroll through our smartphones, play games or watch the tube until bedtime.
Where did it all go wrong? The technological advances we have available to us today were supposed to make life easier, giving us more free time to do the things we love. Do you ever get the feeling that all we have time for these days is more work? Feeling a little stressed? Need some relief?
Get yourself outside.
Work wise, life hasn’t changed all that much, even though we think it has. In the past, people would come home from work, have dinner and then sit outside with a coffee, a strong beer or a glass of wine. Weekends were spent outdoors doing the gardening, going on picnics with the family or fishing with friends. It didn’t really matter what we did on the weekends. The point was, we did them outside.
The time spent outdoors is crucial to our mental and physical wellbeing. The fact that we are feeling tense, stressed and a little depressed at times, is the lack of outdoor activity. Let’s look at 15 mental and physical benefits of being outside to get you away from your screens and into the sunlight.
1. Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D
When you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, there is a little magic taking place. Sunlight on your skin triggers a reaction in your body to produce vitamin D. This Vitamin is important for healthy tissues, it’s great for your cardiovascular and pulmonary health and a whole lot of other health benefits. You don’t have to burn yourself to a crisp to reap the benefits. Depending on the time of year and the outdoor temperature you could get what you need are a short time in the summer and a little longer in winter. You can even sit in the shade during the hot summer months and still get what you need. If you plan on staying in the sun longer, don’t neglect using sunglasses and an application of sunscreen.
2. Heal Faster With Natural Light
If you have recently suffered an injury or an illness you’re probably going a little stir crazy. Lying in bed or on the couch for days on end is boring and depressing. In fact, there is an old saying that for every day you lie in bed, it takes 2 days to recover. It stands to reason you do need to rest after illness or injury, but where does it say you must rest indoors? You can just as easily sit or lay outside for part of the day and take in some of that natural light. Scientists and doctors have reported that recovery times for their surgical patients was significantly reduced by simply letting patients spend a little time outdoors in the natural light each day. Not only did it help with the physical recovery, but it also helped them mentally as well.
3. Increased Energy Levels
How many of us experience that mid-afternoon slump in energy levels? Most of us do, and when it hits we’re usually reaching for a large cup of coffee, chocolate or energy drinks. That’s all well and good, but the energy boost from these substances is only temporary and you could actually experience lower energy levels once the sugar and caffeine wear off. If it’s much better to sit outside for 15 or 20 minutes than to reach for snacks and beverages. The fresh air does wonders to clear brain fog and it’s great for your lungs too. You don’t even have to be doing anything. It’s perfectly fine to just sit outside and breathe. If your job doesn’t include an afternoon break, try to take your lunch break around 2:00 pm instead of noon. Eat your lunch sitting outside and take a quick walk if time permits. This will not only give you that natural energy high, but it will also help you digest your lunch.
4. Lower Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is bad news and today’s sedentary lifestyle coupled with poor eating habits has seen drastic increases in the instances of high blood pressure. This can lead to all sorts of ailments with some of the worst being stroke or deep vein thrombosis. Spending just minutes a day outside can lower your blood pressure to safer levels and if you use the time outdoors to walk, you’ll lower it even more. One intensive study from Japan found that a walk in the forest could decrease stress hormone levels up top 15%.
5. Help You Manage Your Weight
We all know the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise. Unfortunately, we spend too many hours sitting at our desks and then even more hours in front of the television or our digital devices. This type of behavior encourages us to eat mindlessly and snack on processed junk. Stepping outside will have the exact opposite effect. When you step outside you’re most likely going to find something to occupy your time. Put your running shoes on and go for a run, go for a walk or ride your bike. Instead of consuming calories, you’ll expend them. Any outdoor activity is going to be more beneficial for you physically and mentally and if it gets you away from the cookie jar, then all the better.
6. Get Some Inspiration
Looking at four walls all day is not going to do much for your creativity. Working in an office or warehouse during the daylight hours can be suffocating and you’ll find your creativity further stifled if you work in a small cubicle. Whenever possible, go for a walk. In particular, grab your hiking shoes, hit the trails on the weekend and go for a hike in your local forest. Nothing clears the mind better than a walk in nature and when you clear the brain clutter, you make room for some creative inspiration. The key is to get away from all the gadgets we have become so reliant on and attached to. Take your phone with you in case of emergency, but turn it off while you’re enjoying nature. You’ll come back to civilization with a clear mind and inspired to work again.
7. Give Your Immune System A Boost
We really do need to take the time to stop and smell the roses. It turns out, this natural form of aromatherapy can do wonders for your immunity and your sense of wellbeing. Don’t just stop at the roses though, smell the other flowers, freshly cut grass, pine forests, the sea breeze and anything else you find pleasing to the senses. Not only that, scientists that the airborne chemicals released by plants are good for us too. These chemicals are called phytoncides and they serve to increase our white blood cells which are necessary for the battle against disease and infections. These natural chemicals and aromas will improve your mood and your immunity better than anything pharmaceutical.
8. Help Ease Anxiety And Depression
More people are being diagnosed with anxiety and depression than ever before. Studies have shown that a lack of outdoor activities in today’s modern lifestyle is a major contributing factor for this increase. While these are serious issues that need specialist care, spending time in nature has been proven to ease the levels of depression and anxiety for many sufferers. A walk in the forest is the best if you can manage it. All that greenery has been proven to boost the mood and self-esteem far more effectively than medication. And if you manage to find a trail near running water, like a stream or river, you’ll receive an extra mood improving boost. It’s no coincidence that wellness spas and retreats are usually situated in natural settings like forests and mountains.
9. Improve Your Eyesight
You may be asking yourself how being outdoors can possibly improve your vision. A study of school children in Australia showed that children who played sports and other activities outdoors had a significantly better vision that kids who played indoors. Both groups of children were equally active but the outdoor kids fared better and showed fewer instances of near-sightedness. The dim lights in the building are the main cause of vision problems in the children in this study. Being indoors, their eyes needed to adjust to the lack of natural light, and over time this causes vision problems. The children who spent more time outdoors suffered fewer vision problems as their eyes did not have to work so hard to adjust. It also doesn’t help that many indoor activities involve the constant glaring of digital screens so when wanting some fun and games, being outside is always a better option, so get your basketball shoes on and go shoot some basketball hoops.
10. Stop SAD Before It Starts
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short, is a condition where the sufferer feels exhausted, anxious, depressed and sad. This usually occurs during the winter months when days are shorter and the sunlight isn’t as bright as we usually like it to be. SAD is unnervingly accurate as an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder because we all feel sad to a certain degree over the cold winter months. We tend to stay indoors where it is warmer but after a while, SAD symptoms creep up on us. Doctors recommend getting outside can mitigate the severity of SAD symptoms. You don’t have to spend the whole day outside, but it is important to get outside every day. Walk to your local store for some basic necessities or get off the bus one stop early too and from work and walk the rest of the way. If you love hiking, don’t let a bit of snow stop you. Put on thicker layers, down jacket, and warmer shoes and beat those winter blues.
11. Your Family And Colleagues Will Thank You
Being cooped up all the time can make us very cranky. This, in turn, makes us pretty difficult to be around as we tend to snap at those around us over trivial matters. Spending time outdoors will make you a better person and you’ll be more pleasant to those around you. Those who regularly spend time outside tend to be more relaxed and tranquil. This is especially true for those that like to spend time outdoors in nature. The views alone are enough to calm down even the most prickly individual but when you have a real appreciation of nature, the trivial things that usually cause us to blow a gasket don’t seem worth the worry anymore. You’ll start to place more importance on spending time with family, friends and your pets which will further add to your inner peace and joy.
12. Prevent Cancer
Recent studies have shown that people who spend time outside, particularly in nature, can build up a bit of resistance to cancer. While these studies are still in the early phases, they still suggest that becoming one with nature can trigger the production of anti-cancer proteins. The Japanese have a term for this – shinrin yoku. It’s also known as forest bathing and you don’t really need to do anything in particular. You just need to get yourself into the woods for a weekend away from time to time. The early finding suggests that the cancer-fighting properties can last for up to seven days after your trip to get out there as often as you can. If you can’t always make it to a forest, go for a walk on the beach or your local park.
13. Don’t Forget The Sea Air
Most people love going to the beach in the summer, but if you live near the coast you should make trips to the beach an all year round thing. Spending time outside is already beneficial in so many ways, but inhaling the air by the sea is beneficial in more ways than you can imagine. The negative ions in sea air can increase your body’s ability to absorb oxygen and bring your serotonin levels into balance. Serotonin is a chemical that controls your moods and relieves stress. Not only that, but the abundance of oxygen in your system also promotes better sleep. This, in turn, comes with a whole series of other health benefits. The spray from the ocean is also high in minerals and a walk on the beach means much of this will be inhaled or end up on your skin. This will promote healing and you’ll simply feel better all over.
14. Improved Memory
If you find yourself forgetting things all the time, it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with your age. It could be that you are being overstimulated by all the things around you. Living in the city or the urban setting in general, we are constantly bombarded with distractions. The city is full of sights, sounds, and smells. We need to deal with the noise of traffic, sirens, and people. Then at home or in the office, we are being stimulated by digital devices and television. It means our brain can never reach a quiet point and we are constantly in overdrive. Stepping outside it great, but if you live in a busy city, you won’t get much relief. Getting away from all the noise and distractions and spending some time in a quiet forest or park allows your mind to calm down and clear out the debris of modern life and improve your focus. Even if it is for a short time, you’ll still have more clarity to remember more easily.
15. Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. It could be from illness, injury or stress that triggers your white blood cells to the affected areas to protect them from foreign particles. However, sometimes inflammation can become chronic and this can lead to conditions like arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome or auto-immune diseases. Spending time outdoors has proven to significantly reduce inflammation. Part of this could be due to increased activity levels when we venture outdoors, but also, being outdoors reduces stress levels which will also help reduce inflammation. If you are able to get out into nature, you will see even better results.
Our forefathers spent most of their daylight hours outdoors and they were healthier and suffered less stress than many of us do today. They didn’t have smartphones and social media to keep them chained to the screens as we do. You don’t need a time machine to go back and enjoy the outdoors as our predecessors did. All you have to do is switch off your devices, open your door and step outside. What you do once you’re out there is entirely up to you. Make this an essential part of your daily routine and you’ll start seeing an improvement in your mental and physical health in no time.