With new developments in technology and smartphones that can do everything for us, people are finding themselves spending significantly less time outside. Whether we’re falling into never ending Netflix binges, playing video games, or are just stuck in a YouTube time-warp, it has become disturbingly easy to seldom leave the house.
Getting outside and enjoying some fresh air can still prove to be both relaxing and beneficial for our health. It is important to spend quality time outdoors, and once you’ve read through the remainder of this article, you’ll likely be inclined to agree.
Without further ado, here are five reasons why you should make it a point to spend more time with Mother Nature.
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1. Stress and Anxiety Relief
Stress and anxiety are common, all-too-familiar themes amongst most hard-working folks today. So, how can we combat these unpleasant feelings? Maybe we just need to spend more time outside.
A study conducted in Japan looked at the effects that walking in a forest, called forest bathing, versus walking in an urban area had on stress levels.
The results found that those who had been sent into the forest setting had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower heart rates and blood pressures than the participants who had been sent into the urban environment.
The results of this study suggest that even a little time outside each day can be beneficial to your health. Try taking a walk outside during your lunch break or set aside time each day to get outside and unwind.
2. A Great Source of Vitamin D
One of the biggest pandemics in the U.S. is Vitamin D deficiency. In fact, a study of demographic differences in Vitamin D deficiency showed a marked decrease in Vitamin D levels over the past 30 years.
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We can get Vitamin D from the foods we eat, but such foods don’t contain near enough of the vitamin to meet the recommended amounts. Getting enough Vitamin D is important for your health and the sun is the biggest source of Vitamin D, so spending less time inside and more time outside can help break the pandemic.
3. Boosts Your Immune System
Pre-millennial people often reminisce about the way they always played outside in the dirt as children. Crafting mud pies, crushing critters, and coming home for dinner as filthy as can be. These same people will also tell you that they rarely ever got sick. Was there a correlation? Do our overly-sanitized children have weaker immune systems than their adult counterparts? Some research has suggested that it is certainly possible.
In another Japanese study, participants stayed in a hotel for three nights and researchers released phytoncide, which is a substance that trees release for protection, into the room by vaporizing it with a humidifier. The researchers took urine samples every day. The study found that the exposure to phytoncide substantially increased the levels of natural killer cells in the body.
4. Improves Mental Health
The winter months can be difficult. Seasonal affective disorder affects many people and is rooted in spending so much time without natural sunlight. Sunlight increases the production of endorphins in the brain which helps to boost your mood, but people tend to not go outside as often in winter because of the challenges presented by colder climates.
During a study conducted in 2002, researchers took 101 men and monitored their serotonin levels during all four seasons. The results of the study showed that serotonin levels were at their lowest in winter and that the serotonin levels were directly influenced by the amount of the sunlight the participants were exposed to.
Another study revealed that those who took 90-minute walks through nature had less negative thoughts about themselves and showed less activity in parts of the brain that have been linked to mental illness than those who took a walk through an urban environment.
What are the implications of these studies? Being outside, especially all year-round, helps you feel good about yourself and improves your mental health.
5. Improves Vision
You may have been told by a peer or family member that keeping your face buried in your laptop or smartphone for hours a day is bad for your eyes. It’s no wonder that spending so much time staring at bright, backlit screens can make our vision seem fuzzy. A study showed that children who spent more time outdoors rather than indoors had a reduced risk of developing myopia, or nearsightedness.
It’s hard to deny that spending more time outside is probably a welcome retreat for your eyes.
Excuses for staying indoors are plentiful. We have endless gadgets to distract us, and long periods of time can pass in the blink of an eye without us ever having set foot outside. It’s important to schedule some time each day to get outdoors (weather permitting, of course). The sunlight and fresh air can do wonders for your psyche and your body.