As people continue to lead every-busier lives with schedules that are stuffed full from dawn til dusk, it seems they have less exposure to nature with each passing day. Being pent up in an office building in the city day in and day out can have disastrous effects on your physical and mental well being. Luckily, just a short amount of time spent in nature is enough to help reverse these effects, and it even has a beneficial positive outcome. Below, let’s take a look at the health benefits associated with being in the great outdoors, as well as examine some quick and easy ways you can introduce more Mother Nature into your weekly routine.
Table of Contents
- Going Outdoors in Nature vs. An Urban Environment
- Health Benefits of Going Outside
- Tips for Getting Outside More
- What is the Optimal Amount of Time to Spend Outdoors?
Going Outdoors in Nature vs. An Urban Environment
It turns out that there is scientific proof that going outside into nature is actually better for the mind and body. Scientists have long studied the benefits of removing oneself from constant exposure in urban environments and instead immersing oneself into nature periodically. While it is not necessary to live remotely, surrounded by nature every moment of the day, science has proven that limited outdoor exposure is enough to allow the mind to reset and restore the body.
Being outdoors can reduce stress, which in turn can reduce the indicators that cause anxiety and depression. This is because being outdoors creates what is described as soft fascination. This occurs when the environment that surrounds a person constantly captures a person’s attention, while still being able to create pleasure, excitement and interest in a person. The attention pulled from the individual is directed into a positive and beneficial pathway.
Compare these effects of going outdoors in nature to what happens when a person is constantly exposed to an urban environment. An urban environment is still able to constantly capture a person’s attention, but the effects are quite overwhelmingly negative. Urban environments alternatively create hard fascination. This occurs when a person is overwhelmed by stimulation creating cognitive fatigue. Over time, urban environments can further a person’s stress, leading to ongoing anxiety and depression. In this case, the constant attention pulled away from the individual is negative and leads to a deterioration of overall physical and mental health.
Health Benefits of Going Outside
The constant buzz of urban environments can create stress and anxiety in a person, ultimately leading to mental fatigue. Luckily, these effects can be reversed simply by spending some time outdoors. There are several health benefits that are associated with spending even a limited amount of time outdoors. Several of these health benefits can impact our bodies both physically and mentally.
Most of the time interacting with nature involves some sort of physical activity. When you are biking, hiking, walking, or kayaking, the body releases different chemicals, like endorphins, to the brain that can promote happiness and joy.
Psychological testing and studies have shown that spending just one hour outside in nature improves a person’s memory by 20%. Interestingly, spending an hour walking down a busy city street had no effect on a person’s ability to increase memory.
Being outdoors can help reduce the amount of stress a person feels. This positive side effect occurs for several reasons, but some of the highlights are because it is able to limit stressful routines, allows you to see the bigger picture in life. In addition, the increased blood circulation hiking or biking can creates can release different chemicals in the brain allowing you to feel happy.
Vitamin D can help reduce inflammation in the body, helping to soothe aching bones and joints. Simply taking a walk outdoors in nature will expose a person to up to 90% of the Vitamin D their body needs.
If you find yourself regularly reaching for your morning coffee or tea for a caffeine boost, it might be beneficial to simply take a walk outside. Research has proven that a 20 minute outdoor walk has the same effect on your body as one cup of coffee.
Better Brain Function
The combination of higher endorphins and an improved focus can lead people to better brain functionality. Everything from improved memory to concentration can help the brain work faster and more clearly. Plus, with a positive attitude, a person’s mind isn’t clouded with undue anxiety and stress.
Improved Mental Health
With the several positive impacts of being outdoors, Mother Nature has the power to improve a person’s mental health. Between stress reduction, increased happiness, and an understanding of the bigger picture the outdoors have a way of allowing the mind to recenter and recharge. Plus, outdoor activities can help release endorphins, which can only help to boost a person’s overall happiness.
Just as walking outside can help improve memory, it can help boost a person’s ability to focus too. In fact, some scientists are considering quick, 20-minute trips outdoors as a natural way to help children with ADHD focus on the task at hand.
Vitamin D Boost
Vitamin D is responsible for allowing our bodies to absorb more calcium, necessary to help prevent osteoporosis and reduce inflammation throughout the body. While we can certainly find minimal amounts of Vitamin D in fortified milk and salmon, a person receives up to 90% of their Vitamin D intake from simply taking a casual walk outside.
Stronger Immune System
Plants are able to create and release tiny air born particles called phytoncides. Normally, you wouldn’t have to know about these particles, but scientists believe that when a person breathes in phytoncides, it triggers the body to create more white blood cells. Having more white blood cells in the body can help build up a stronger immune system.
With all these different health benefits, you might be raring to get out and go on a nice long hike through a national park or on a great local hiking trail. Use that determination, and get out there!
Tips for Getting Outside More
So now that we understand exactly what the health benefits associated with being outside are, let’s explore the simple ways we can introduce more outdoor time into our day to day lives.
Set Up a WFH Outdoor Workspace
Some of us are able to work from home, but this usually takes the form of sitting in a closed office space while indoors. Why not set up a work from home space in your yard? All you really need is a spot to place a laptop computer and maybe a notebook. Even just doing a simple task for work outside, like taking a conference call or a webinar, will expose you to your minimal amount of outdoor time for the day. Plus, taking your work outside might help to relieve some stress and tension that has built throughout a busy workday.
Read On Your Porch or Deck
Instead of curling up in bed or on your couch to read a book, take your reading outside. You’ll be amazed at how wonderful it feels to be immersed in nature while catching up with your favorite characters. Smell the clean air, listen to the birds, and get lost in your book. Plus, if you have a covered porch or deck, this activity can still take place rain or shine.
Do Daily Activities Outside
If you have a normal routine that you usually do inside, why not take the routine outdoors? Your daily activities can easily move to an outdoor space where you can still take advantage of some sunlight. Whether it is a hobby, some stretching, or taking care of your garden some fresh, clean air outside will do your mind and your body good.
Start a Garden in Your Yard
Gardening is an excellent stress reliever for many reasons. First, you have the opportunity to be outside which comes with its own wealth of benefits. Secondly though, you get the sense of accomplishment knowing you have nourished and grown your own living things. Get an added benefit from gardening in your yard by planting a vegetable garden. Not only will you get some great nourishment, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you were able to grow your own food.
Go for a Daily Morning Walk
Start your morning out right with a peaceful morning walk. It doesn’t have to be a long walk, only 20 minutes will be enough, but the morning walk is a great way to ease your mind. Put yourself in the right frame of mind with a walk first thing in the morning to allow your body to relax. Plus, walking first thing in the morning will give your brain and body the energy boost it needs to be able to start the day off right. Starting to walk daily can even help prepare you to begin hiking, if that’s something that interests you.
Eat Dinner Outside
What a simple way to spend some quality time with your family and have the added benefits of being outdoors. Simply moving your dinner outside will give you about an hour of additional outdoor time. Set up a table and chairs on a porch or patio to enjoy some quality time sitting and relaxing in nature.
Pick Up an Outdoor Hobby
There are plenty of hobbies that take place outdoors. Join a gardening club, a yoga group that practices in the park, or a hiking and adventuring club. Take up golfing, tennis, or other outdoor sport. Not only will you have the health benefits that come from being outdoors, but you will get to enjoy a hobby that you love doing.
Become a Dog Walker
This is a great way to not only be outdoors and get some exercise, but you can also make a little money on the side. Being a dog walker is a great way to spend time outside while also getting the opportunity to interact with puppies and dogs. You never know, the extra cash you earn walking dogs could go toward something you’ve been saving for.
Take Lunch Breaks Outdoors
It can be frustrating being pent up inside in an office building for 8 to 9 hours a day. When you have the chance for your lunch break, take the opportunity to move your lunch break outside. Not only will this help break up the monotony of the day, but it will give you 20 or 30 minutes of outdoor exposure to help your mind recharge and reset for the second half of the work day.
Plan an Outdoor Activity on Weekends
Weekends are the perfect time to relax with friends and family and unwind from the tough work week. Take at least one day over the weekend and plan an outdoor activity. You can choose how immersed in nature you become. Whether you want to play croquet with some friends or spend a few hours learning how to fish at a local river or lake, any time spent outside is time well spent. If you try a variety of activities, you may even find a new favorite hobby. Whichever you choose, you will ultimately still end up outdoors enjoying the benefits of Mother Nature.
Plan a Camping Trip
Planning a camping trip is an excellent way to reconnect with nature and recharge your batteries. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t even have to wait until summer to camp: you can go camping in any season. Camping offers a wide variety of different activities to participate in, and camping is especially fun for kids. Taking a weekend to hang out at a campsite or hike through the woods can be an excellent way to get in touch with nature and the great outdoors.
What is the Optimal Amount of Time to Spend Outdoors?
The science is overwhelmingly in support of more time spent outdoors, with a wealth of health benefits associated with simply being outside. As much as we would all want to simply live outside, we know that in our busy lives this isn’t a realistic possibility.
So what is the magic number of minutes needed outside to start to see these benefits? Researchers have determined that people begin to see the benefits of spending time outdoors after just 120 minutes per week. Broken down, this is less than 30 minutes a day. Looking at any one of the listed tips for going outside, it is quite simple to eat lunch outdoors 4 times a week, or take an hour long walk twice per week. Get creative, there are plenty of activities you can move to the outdoors to be able to relax and recharge in Mother Nature.
As our lives continue to become busier, it seems that the opportunities to spend time outdoors diminishes by the second. Between hectic work schedules and after work activities, it seems that our lives have become relegated to the four walls around us. However, being outdoors has a slew of health benefits including stress and anxiety relief, boosted energy, an increased immune system, and a more focused mindset. There are plenty of opportunities to get outdoors, if you just know where to look. Planning an outdoor activity, starting a new hobby, or even taking your lunch outside to eat are some great ideas to get you immersed in the great outdoors.