Why being outdoors is good for us
No matter how much we might love our own homes and being inside, there are many important reasons why stepping outdoors and spending time there in nature is important too. Many of us don’t do it enough, but the following reasons might just persuade you that it is time to try it for yourself (and for your health).
It has been proven through scientific studies that spending time outdoors, and specifically in forests amongst trees, reduces our stress levels. Completely immersing yourself in the forest landscape is the best way to do it (so camping in the woods or taking a long stroll there is ideal), but even if you just step in for a moment, you should be able to feel those stress levels reducing and your body and mind returning to a more normal, comfortable state.
Many of us are overworked and overstressed, and that can mean problems for our physical and mental health. If we can reduce chronic stress as naturally as possible for as long as possible, we will be healthier all round.
It can be difficult to be creative in the modern world when there are so many different demands on our time and senses. By going outside and taking a walk or simply sitting in a beautiful park or garden (including your own), you can start fresh. Your mind will be less focused on mundane, everyday things, and you will be able to create a lot more easily. Artists who are finding it difficult to work out what their next move should be in their painting, sculpture, or writing, often find that taking a walk outside gives them the answers they need.
Even if you have your office in a conservatory, for example, and open your bi-folding doors to let the sounds and smells of nature in, you will find that your brain becomes more active and you can think a lot more creatively that you did before.
Our senses have many parts to play in our lives, and that includes making us more healthy. Hearing, for example, is an incredibly important sense. It alerts us to danger because we can hear alarms, or the sound of other people, for example, but it also means that we can hear more reassuring sounds including those of nature. Being able to hear natural birdsong is something that has been shown to reassure us, and it makes us feel good to hear it, instantly lifting our moods and making us more joyful. If we’re feeling good, we can be a lot more positive in life in general, and that will lead to us being more productive and happy.
Our sense of smell is perhaps even more important than our sense of hearing, especially when it comes to nature. Our sense of smell is the sense most closely linked with the emotional part of the brain. When we smell something that reminds us of another time, perhaps our childhood or another important event, the memory and the emotions that go with it are immediate and intense. Being able to release these emotions every now and then is important.
Not only that, but plants and trees emit phytoncides. This organic compound is part of the organic oil in wood, and when people breathe this in and inhale its scent, their anxiety can be reduced. In Japan, and other Asian countries, people go ‘forest bathing.’ They deliberately breathe in these phytoncides so that they can de-stress and feel less worried about whatever it is that is troubling them.
If you can incorporate water into your outdoor pursuits, then that is even better. Negative ions found in water are natural antidepressants, so walking beside a stream or river, spending time at the beach, or relaxing near a lake will all help you to feel much better, and your emotional health can improve.
If you also go swimming, then there are even more benefits. The water is sure to be cool, if not cold, and if that is the case, then your blood vessels will dilate. This is a natural way for your body to rid itself of toxins whilst at the same time increasing the number of endorphins in the body. Endorphins make us feel good, so there are benefits all round to being not just outside, but near water too.
Improved Immune System
The more time we spend outside, the better our immune systems become at keeping us healthy. This is because they become used to all the germs and bugs that the great outdoors likes to throw at us, and it can easily build up resistance to them. This is why those who spend more time outdoors are less likely to catch any nasty illnesses or, if they do, then that illness will last for much less time.
For those who are already suffering from some form of illness or even an injury, being able to have a view of the outside has been shown to help them recover faster.
Sleep is essential if we want to be at our best as much as possible. Sleep is also when our bodies and minds are able to heal, so it is important that we get enough of it. If we are inside all day long without any access to the outside at all, our bodies will find it confusing, and may not make us feel tired at the right time. Therefore, even if we go to bed when we are meant to, it might take us a long time to actually fall asleep, or to stay asleep once we do drop off. Being able to have access to the outside world, even if that is simply through a window, means that our circadian rhythm settles into a good routine, and we can sleep better. This will help to contribute to a healthy routine and structure with your day to day life. Maximizing on sunlight and making the most of the day is one easy way to do this.