No, I’m not kidding. Seriously, there are some serious health benefits to spending time outdoors. And if you’re like most of us, you spend the vast majority of your time inside, right?
Some observers say we’ve become a society with a “nature deficit disorder” that can easily be remedied with a good dose of “vitamin N.” Many doctors worldwide have actually started prescribing time in nature to their patients.
And guess what? The people who follow these prescriptions enjoy measurable improvements in health and mental well-being.
Want to get some of the benefits of Vitamin N? For most of us, it’s simpler (and cheaper) than swallowing a pill.
What could be easier than moving your reading to a lawn chair or getting your exercise with a walk in the park?
It turns out that time in nature has some really powerful health benefits. So if you’re reading this on your phone right now, go sit somewhere green to finish it — it could improve your health!
Here are 6 great reasons to make an effort to get outside more often.
Get Outside to Get Vitamin D
Vitamin D affects everything from your mood to your immune system — even cancer risk. “D-ficiency” has become widespread, as so many of us spend the majority of each day inside. Getting outside when the weather is good can help a lot, though those of us in northern latitudes have trouble getting enough vitamin D in winter. Here’s more on why you want to get enough vitamin D.
Get Outside for Fresh Air
Even if you avoid toxic cleaners and products, it’s likely some things in your home add to indoor air pollution like electronics and furniture. Outdoor air tends to be considerably less polluted, especially natural areas filled with plants, which both filter the air and release beneficial compounds. If you live in a polluted area, seek out parks and woods where the air is likely to be cleaner.
Get Outside Because Time in Nature Relieves Stress
Studies show that contact with natural environments lowers cortisol levels and other measures of stress. Researchers think that compounds given off by trees are especially beneficial, so taking a walk through the woods may be one of your best workout choices.
Related: 9 More Simple Ways to Reduce Cortisol
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Get Outside to Get the Mood-Boosting Effects of Nature
Several studies have found that experiencing natural environments improves mood and feelings of well-being.
In addition to lowering cortisol and providing mood-improving vitamin D, sunlight prompts your body to make serotonin, that feel-good chemical we get from eating chocolate. Sunlight exposure also affects our levels of melatonin, which has a big impact on how well we sleep, which in turn has a big impact on our mood!
Get Outside for Increased Energy
Some time outdoors could help increase your energy level. It may be the vitamin D, the increased oxygen, or the stress relief, or all of them together, but getting outdoors may turn out to be a great pick-me-up if you’re feeling sluggish.
Contact with nature not only improves immune function, it even increases the activity of anti-cancer cells. All these beneficial effects add up to some positive impacts on your health! No wonder people who live near greenspaces tend to live longer and have lower rates of disease than those who don’t.
Easy Ways to Get Outside More
Getting outside more can take very little effort on your part. I take my writing outside whenever the weather permits to maximize my time outdoors. Here are some suggestions for working more outside time into your daily schedule:
- Take that coffee break or coffee date out on a bench or in a park
- Read in your backyard or on your porch
- Choose outdoor exercise
- Socialize with friends while walking in your neighborhood
Or grow a garden! Even if you’ve never gardened, growing a few simple herbs in a pot is a start and it’s easier than you think! Find out how easy it is to get started in my free quickstart guide.
Even looking at natural scenes can help relieve stress and improve health so when you can’t actually get outside, choosing somewhere with a view or looking at a picture of nature may be a good idea.
How to get the most out of your time outdoors
The important thing is to get outside often, however you can, in whatever weather. Whether it’s a short stomp in the snow, a stroll on the beach, or sitting in a park, it all counts.
But if you want to maximize the benefits, take some time to be still and engage your senses. Listen carefully to the sounds of leaves and birds. Try to notice plants, insects, and views. The moments of calm mindfulness you can add to your time outside will only enhance its beneficial effects on your health.
Do you make a point to get outside every day? What are your strategies for increasing time outdoors?
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