Going outside from time to time isn’t just a nice activity; it can be a crucial aspect of maintaining your health
We live in a time when the number of mental and physical maladies that afflict humankind are legion. A staggering 42.4% of American adults struggle with obesity. Excessive screen time, particularly in children, has been linked to things like depression, poor diet, and weight gain. You don’t have to look very far to realize that the quality of life for a modern 21st-century individual is often tepid at best.
Fortunately, everything from a lack of exercise to excessive screen time, and even mental anxiety and depression can be addressed with one simple activity: going outside.
The Mental and Physical Benefits of the Great Outdoors
It’s common — some would even say cliché — to consider going outdoors “good for your health.” However, this often stereotypical statement is made with a profound lack of genuine understanding. It’s easy to say that you feel better when you go outside, but what is it about the experience that truly improves your quality of life?
Knowing the details about how each trip out the front door can impact your health isn’t just interesting — it’s something worth learning in-depth so that you can use the outdoors to your advantage whenever you find yourself struggling with maintaining your physical and mental health.
It’s also worth mentioning that this need for the collective benefits of the Great Outdoors has never been more important than during the post-COVID-19 era. As shutdowns, face masks, and social distancing policies consistently keep people apart, the need for a healthy way to combat indoor isolation has never been more important.
Here are a handful of the most powerful ways that Mother Nature can impact your health and wellness:
Nature Can Increase Your Physical Activity
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of the outdoors is the simple fact that being in nature tends to naturally boost your physical activity. From hiking in the woods to swimming at the beach, spending time outside is a great way to get your heart pumping.
Nature Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety
When nature increases your physical activity, it can have a direct impact on another aspect of your health: your stress levels. Exercise is a proven stress-reducer, as physical activity pumps up your endorphins, countering the effects of pent up stress.
Additionally, the simple act of being in nature can serve as a form of emotional therapy. Surrounding yourself with the serenity of the outdoors, breathing in the fresh air, and even more exotic activities like forest bathing can all serve to calm ruffled feathers, soothe out-of-control anxiety, and restore a sense of balance to your mind.
Nature Can Boost Your Immunity
Time spent in a natural setting has also been scientifically linked to a variety of immunity-boosting benefits. The most obvious one is the ability to soak up that precious vitamin D on a warm, sunny day.
There’s further evidence that Mother Nature can help mitigate some of the affects of conditions like ADHD, depression, diabetes, and even cancer.
Nature Can Help Your Physical Body
Along with basic exercise, being in nature can also benefit your body in many small, subtle ways.
For example, sunlight has been shown to naturally lower your blood pressure, while colder weather can be a boon for those with varicose veins by promoting better blood flow. Time spent outside — and the physical exertion that often comes with it — can help to improve the quality of your sleep and can even aid in managing and mitigating chronic pain.
Nature Can Promote Mental Wellness
Along with combatting mental health concerns like anxiety and depression, nature can also have a proactive and positive impact on your overall mental health.
By spending time outdoors, you can heal from work-related burnout. The activity can help you unplug from the constant pressure and demands of everyday life. With the coronavirus, in particular, limiting social activity and cooping everyone up at home, getting outside can be a welcome lifeline to cultivate mental wellness during the ongoing chaos. The great outdoors has also been known as a great way to boost creativity and generally increase life satisfaction.
Embracing the Outdoors in the Name of Your Health
Going outside from time to time isn’t just a nice activity. It can be a crucial aspect of maintaining your health. The good news is, you don’t need to spend an excessive amount of time outdoors to realize many of the benefits.
It’s recommended that you spend around 120 minutes each week outside. That’s two short hours every seven days — for a grand total of less than 1.2% of your time. If you can manage to get outside for an hour every few days, you’ll be able to tap into a plethora of different mental and physical health benefits, all of which can help to restore a sense of peace and balance to an all-too-common hectic, stressed, and overtaxed 21st-century lifestyle.
You may also enjoy reading Forest Bathing: How Immersing in Nature Can Help You Reconnect by Tess DiNapoli