Art of Life/Donna Parker
Five Amazing Facts about Being Outdoors
“Don’t try to think outside the box. Think outside,” - Unknown
Being outdoors is fun, but even more importantly, it is good for the brain, body, and soul. Humans were made to be outside. After all, it is only in the last couple of thousand years — and especially over the last 100 — that we have stopped spending most of our time in the great outdoors. It used to be necessary for survival. Hunters, farmers, and foragers all spent a large majority of their time outside because their lives depended on it.
In the 20th century, with the invention of the automobile and pizza delivery, the need to go outside disappeared from our survival needs completely. We left the outside out there to do whatever the outside does. It can be so uncomfortable, and bugs live out there after all. But in retreating to the indoors, we have been losing out on some really necessary bodily processes that only happen when you spend a little time among the trees, in the sun, or rolling in the grass.
“OK, so your brain changes a little bit or whatever, but what does it really do for me,” you might be wondering. Well, I am glad you asked.
Being outside actually has a huge physiological impact as well. For example, your body produces Vitamin D through sun exposure, which is a necessary mineral that promotes a strong immune system and helps protect against Alzheimer's disease. Sunlight exposure also has the added benefit of helping regulate your circadian rhythm — the body’s natural internal clock. So if you struggle falling asleep at night, you might just need to pop outside a little more often. Obviously, you want to protect your skin from over exposure, but it turns out that it is not just plants that need sunlight to survive. The following are five little known facts about being outdoors:
The Outdoors Is Good For Your Vision.
Research shows that elementary school students who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop nearsightedness.
The Outdoors Boosts Your Immune System.
Scientists think that breathing in phytoncides — airborne chemicals produced by plants — increases our levels of white blood cells, helping us fight off infections and diseases.
The Outdoors Provides You With Free Aromatherapy.
According to science, you really should stop and smell the flowers. Research shows that natural scents like roses, freshly cut grass, and pine make you feel calmer and more relaxed.
The Outdoors Restores Your Focus.
Can’t concentrate at work? Leave your office for a few minutes and go stroll in a nearby park. Studies show that walking in nature helps restore our focus.
The Outdoors Makes Us Better People.
According to psychologists, exposure to nature helps us shrug off societal pressures, allowing us to remember and value more important things like relationships, sharing, and community.
“Kids don’t remember their best day of television” — Unknown
Aside from all of the great, measurable benefits that being outside provides us, it just seems to make people happier. People who spend more time outside generally rate themselves happier than folks who do not. Being outside also seems to keep us feeling younger. It seems like the benefits never end!
Maybe the best thing about the great outdoors is that it does not cost anything to go for a short walk or hike. Most cities have natural areas that are specifically designed to get us out of city mode and reprogrammed into our more natural roots. If you struggle with a weak immune system, poor sleep habits, or you just feel a general malaise, going outside might be one way to get yourself out of your existential funk. Maybe those seemingly backwards outdoor enthusiasts that we like to poke fun at are actually onto something.
But while you’re here, remember, always wear your sunscreen.