The Benefits of Getting Outdoors
It’s safe to say that many of us spend a lot of our time indoors. We sit at desks, tables, or sofas staring at the screens of our phones, tablets or laptops. We’re constantly bombarded by all this artificial light but seldom make our way outdoors to feel the sunshine on our faces.
Even lovers of the outdoors can find it difficult to get outside and soak up everything nature has to offer. We’re busy, and there’s always something else that needs to be done.
The problem is that not spending some time outdoors can take a toll on your health – both mentally and physically. Have you ever noticed that after spending all day cooped up indoors that a thick cloud of brain fog envelopes your head? But then, when you walk outside, something about the fresh air instantly clears the fog away. Some might say that it’s simply the change of environment but there’s some compelling evidence that it’s more likely mother nature hard at work.
How many times have you been stuck indoors and thought to yourself, “Time to get some fresh air?” There’s a good chance that little thought was your body’s way of urging you to take some time and do something good for yourself. Getting outside is good for you, and now that autumn is approaching, the weather is perfect for stepping outside the cubicle and breathing in some fresh fall air.
To prove that it’s worth the effort, here are 10 amazing benefits of getting outdoors – and they’re significant enough to compel even the most devoted couch potato.
Fresh Air Clears Your Head
This benefit of the great outdoors probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. For starters, we’re typically more active when outside and even mild exercise is great for clearing the cobwebs from your head.
However, there have been some studies that indicate it isn’t just some movement that clears your head. Getting outside, even for a few minutes, has been shown to improve concentration among kids with ADHD. Also, it turns out the greener the better. In another study, participants were divided into two groups where one spent some time outside in a city setting, while the other enjoyed a park with more green space. The park going group enjoyed enhanced benefits upon returning to the daily grind.
The Outdoors Is an Instant Mood Lifter
It’s no secret that summertime, and all the opportunity to enjoy the glorious outdoors, is associated with a boost in mood. In stark contrast, we see more people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder once the colder, darker days of winter come along and have us burrowing into caves, so to speak. The mood-boosting benefits of the great outdoors don’t need to end once the seasons change.
During the fall, the air might be a bit cooler, but it’s still pleasant enough to spend an afternoon exploring your favorite nature spot. Plus, mother nature provides all the mood-lifting aromatherapy you need, without blowing the bank on essential oils.
You’ll Get More ZZZs
Most of us are exposed to a lot of artificial light throughout the day. Between the indoor lighting and the constant glow of the screens in front of us, our natural body clocks are all out of whack. Your body is designed to automatically adjust its rhythm to the seasons, which is largely impacted by light. The problem is that all these artificial light sources have our bodies not knowing day from night, leading to sleepless nights and full-blown insomnia.
It might seem counterintuitive to say the “cure” for this is lighter, but that might be exactly what the doctor ordered. Spending time outside in natural sunlight can help reset your body’s natural clock and as a result, help you get a more restful sleep at night. Better sleep provides plenty of health benefits of its own – like improved productivity, a healthier immune system, a reduction in anxiety and depression, and less risk of chronic disease.
Your Boss Will Love You
Been feeling a little sluggish and less than productive on the professional front lately? It could be that you’ve just spent too much time inside, and your productivity is paying the price. Taking a bit of break and getting some fresh air – even for a few minutes – is enough to supercharge your energy, sharpen your focus, and give the boost you need to power through that mid-afternoon slump.
Keeps Your Circle Intact
Having a tight circle of family and friends is important, even more so as we age. The older we get, the easier it seems to become introverted – choosing to stay indoors and maybe curl up with a good book (not necessarily a bad thing) instead of heading out with friends or taking the family out on an outdoor adventure. As the years creep by, this can lead to isolation and depression, which is a major mental health issue for the senior population.
Getting outside automatically makes you more social, even if you head out on your own. You’re more likely to meet new people that share similar interests, which can be the great start to a lifelong friendship. Getting outside also provides the perfect “excuse” to grab a friend or two you haven’t seen in awhile and catch up while you’re enjoying mother nature.
Let’s Talk About Immunity
Getting outside can help make your immune system stronger, which is even more important heading into the cold and flu season that starts during the fall and winter months.
For starters, spending some time outdoors boosts your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is essential, but it’s also hard to come by. Our bodies don’t produce it on their own, and the foods we eat don’t naturally contain it. This means we’re left trying to source the vitamin D we need from fortified foods, supplements, and – you guessed it – sunlight. Your body synthesizes sunlight and creates vitamin D from it. This provides the extra support your immune system needs. Plus, as a bonus, sunlight also adds a little extra energy to your body’s T cells, which also helps fight nasty infections.
Getting a Head Start on SAD
As we’ve already mentioned, the coming winter months are a difficult time for many people. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a seasonally influence depressive disorder that affects as many as 10 million Americans. Some people experience SAD during the warmer months, but most cases occur during the winter. There is still a lot about Seasonal Affective Disorder that we don’t know, but it is thought that the change is exposure to sunlight contributes to the condition.
Spending time outdoors isn’t a cure for SAD, but it can help. The extra exposure to sunlight, even through thick, overcast clouds, might help minimize the symptoms of SAD for those who suffer from it. If it’s the cold weather that prompts you to stay indoors, or you have a dislike of the gray, shorter days, bundle up and try to step outside just to breathe in some fresh air for 15-20 minutes a day.
Mother Nature Is Good for Your Heart
There is evidence that spending some time outdoors is good for your heart, which happens to be important since cardiovascular disease is still the leading disease-related cause of death in the United States. One way that this is accomplished is through a reduction in blood pressure.
One study found that spending time outside, walking through a wooded area, decreased stress and stress-related hormone levels in participants, which lead to lower all blood pressure levels among the individuals in the study.
The Great Outdoors Is Good for Your Long-Term Health
Everything about spending some time outdoors seems to point in one direction – improved long-term health. For instance, we already touched on how getting outside tends to increase your level of physical activity overall, and can reduce blood pressure, but the health-boosting benefits go even deeper than that.
There’s some evidence to suggest that soaking up mother nature’s bounty helps to reduce inflammation. Why is this so important for long term health? Well, for starters, inflammation is the primary precursor to many of the chronic diseases that our society suffers from today.
Serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and cancer all start out with chronic inflammation. Any steps you can take to reduce the inflammatory effect in your body is an automatic plus for your long-term health and chronic disease prevention.
Nature Makes Us Happy
Even the person who would never describe themselves as being “outdoorsy” has to admit that some time outside on the perfect fall day does something wonderful for their disposition. Whether it’s the sunshine, the sounds of nature, or even the smell of a crisp fall morning, it’s hard not to feel a little happier, lighter, and more content with life when you make spending a little time in the great outdoors a priority.
Easy Ways to Spend More Time Outdoors
I know, you love spending a little time outside but find it next to impossible to get out the door when you have so much going on that needs tending to. Sometimes, all you need is a little incentive to help you see just how easy it is to work a little quality one on one time with mother nature into your schedule. Here are a few easy ways to soak up all the benefits of the great outdoors.
- Do It Early: If you just feel too pressed for time during the day, set your alarm for 15-20 minutes earlier in the morning and use the time to get some fresh air before your day starts. Put on a cozy sweater and have your coffee on the porch, or maybe go for a brisk walk around the block to put a little extra pep in your day.
- Start Slow: The point is to just get out there, not to immediately spend a couple of hours walking through a forest. If all you can manage is a few minutes outside raking leaves or pulling the last of the season’s harvest from the garden, then that’s a great start. Do what you can, when you can – just don’t make any excuses not to.
- Take Advantage of Your Lunch Hour: Instead of using your lunch hour as a chance to catch up with social media, put down your phone and pick up your walking shoes. Head outside for a walk around the block or down to your favorite sandwich shop if it’s close enough.
- Invite a Friend: It’s hard to make excuses to stay indoors under your cuddly blanket when you’ve committed yourself to spending some time outside with a friend. Make a regular date to go on a walk, jog, or even explore a new local outdoor attraction every week.
Let Mother Nature Put a Smile on Your Face
Even the best skincare and cosmetics can’t compete with the transformative beauty of a true, genuine smile can. Make time for yourself and get out there to enjoy the world around you. Let a few rays of the warm, fall sun brighten your day, and remind you just how beautiful life can be when you make time for the things that are important.