What are you up to right now? Where are you sitting/standing/travelling? How are you reading this? On your computer? On a phone? Tablet?
Odds are, (less a small percentage of you) you’re inside. You’re safe, your climate and environment is comfortable. You’re somewhere familiar. And short those of you not quite enjoying your job (and reading this on the clock–we won’t tell!), you’re probably somewhere you like to be!
The primitive parts of our minds seek this comfort. From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s safe. We’re away from danger: predators, toxins, environmental threats, rival tribes, thieves. This is fantastic! It’s one of the biggest factors supporting longevity these days.
So, why leave my safe space??
Well, I’m not necessarily suggesting a significant hiatus from normalcy. Although there is plenty of evidence that we should be seeking digital detoxes and swarths of time getting back to our primal roots… We can talk about those another time.
I’m talking about what we can be doing right now to make some marked improvement on whatever your current disposition.
The sad thing is, we’re spending less and less time outdoors! ONLY 17.9% of you are getting outside at least ONCE A WEEK! And with the advancement of modern comfort, some people aren’t even walking to their cars anymore. They park in the garage, have their groceries delivered, order goods that’ll be delivered in 2 days or less to their front door (or garage), use remote-ordering for restaurant orders… it’s crazy how much we’re becoming hermits despite the fact that neighborhood communities are popping up everywhere!
And with the changing times, parents trust their children to be outdoors alone less and less, meaning they spend more time in front of a TV, on tablets, or using gaming consoles.
So, why should we go outside again?
- Natural Sunlight:
– Vitamin D is crucial for body function, bone health, organ health, vitality, and metabolism. Obviously we’re all taught the dangers of “too much,” but what’s just right is easy to find: it’s less than you think.
– Sunlight (during the conversion of vitamin D) produces nitric oxide, which reduces blood pressure, reduces stress, increases sleep quality, fights depression, and strengthens your immune system. (Read more here)
- Fresh Air
Unless you live in an area of the world where you have constant air quality alerts, less a hospital-grade air purification and cycling system, you cannot beat the quality of outdoor air.
And even if you do have access to all those, I would still argue you don’t have it better than mother nature!
– Circulating in your home are all types of microbes, dander, dust, particulate, and potentially dangerous elements of Radon, CO, CO2, Sulfur Dioxide, and household cleaning product pollutants. And that exists even for the cleanest of us. Obviously opening windows helps mitigate this, but most of us are spoiled by our HVAC systems during the heat of summer and cold of winter. [For the sake of the length of this article, we’re also assuming you’re not living in an older house with lead, asbestos, remodeling hazards, or anywhere pesticide use is common. That’s another heaping can of NOPE.]
– Outdoor air clears your lungs, provides greater energy, lowers blood pressure and resting heart rate (and just plain smells better!)
- Being outdoors is good for your vision. Both the outdoor light AND the fact that you’re not always focused on the closeup nature of being inside (and in front of a screen, counter, or book) gives your vision a helpful respite from being stressed all day. Studies show that allowing children time outside greatly reduces the probability of developing nearsightedness.
Further, study results show that less than 60 minutes of outdoor light exposure per day is a risk factor for myopia.
- How many of you use scented candles? Air fresheners? Tart burners? Incense and or essential oils? It’s OK. While none of those are the elixir of youth marketing agencies might want you to believe, there’s a GOOD REASON we’re drawn to them!
– Aromatherapy, by way of nature, is researched and proven to help you feel calmer and more relaxed. Natural scents, like flowers, freshly cut grass, pine, and other outdoor fragrances and musk are tied to the olfactory portion of our brain and help put us at ease, as this is historically associated with being in a cozy, safe, familiar environment.
And as you can imagine, nothing beats the natural stuff!
- Negative ions. While there is still plenty of study to be done, the positive affects of negative ions, in their natural state, are shown to benefit those with allergies, depression and seasonal depression, eliminates airborne germs, and can increase oxygen to the brain.
– Outdoors, especially near the ocean, waterfalls, and surrounding storms have the greatest levels of negative ions. Sorry for those of you trying to use salt generators, candles, and ion generators at home. Some of these are pure snake oil, and those that aren’t? Most of those are actually detrimental to your health because they generate ozone as a byproduct (please stop!). But the good news is, you can get them for free by GOING OUTSIDE!
The last 3 benefits I’m not going to get into great detail or provide you with much research; it might make this blog another 2-3 pages! I encourage you to look into yourself if you’re so inclined!
- Exercise: Being outdoors makes it feel easier to exercise. Be it motivation-driven, more fresh air and natural light granting you greater energy levels, or just the fact that being outdoors invites us to walk, move and play more, we are more inclined to exercise when outside!
- Natural sunlight helps mitigate pain. This may be due to otherwise insufficient Vitamin D levels, or the greater presences of nitric oxide, or reduction of the elements causing SAD. Whatever the reason, surgery patients who were exposed to high intensity sunlight reported less pain and took less pain medication as a result.
- The outdoors enhances creativity. Psychologists find that individuals regularly score higher on creativity tests after spending a few days in the wilderness sans electronics.
– This occurrence also relates to focus. Walking in nature is shown to help restore focus and allow your mind time to work past mental blocks.
Well, that’s a lot! And it’s all great stuff! It’s a bit chilly outside, but after sitting in front a computer writing this up for my fans, I’m going to get a nice brisk walk in! How about you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.