With summer in full swing, the days are filled with familiar summer activities. Watching kids play at the pool, having friends over for a cookout, a wild family vacation to the beach, or grilling s’mores over a campfire – it’s these simple moments that give summer its sweet flavor.
Most of these beloved summer activities include enjoying time outdoors and spending time in nature. Have you ever stopped to think about why?
It’s been proven time and again, that people report improved mental and physical health after spending time outdoors. Dozens (if not hundreds) of research studies have all come to the same conclusion - being outside just makes us feel better. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. Like we were made for it.
But we don’t need science to tell us this. You’ve probably experienced for yourself the health benefits of a day spent in the sun. In fact, for most of human history, most humans spent most of their time outdoors.
But in the age of screens and technology, it’s estimated that the average American spends almost 93% of their time indoors. It’s imperative to our health to lower that statistic in our own lives.
Let’s break down three ways spending time outside improves our own mental, physical, and environmental health.
Spending time in nature has been proven to reduce stress, lower anxiety, and improve concentration. Research shows that it only takes 5 minutesto experience the relaxing effects of nature.
While most of us have a lot on our minds on any given day, a quick break outside gives our busy brains a chance to rest. A simple walk around the block or game with a friend can do wonders to help pull ourselves away from the busy workday and recenter our brains for the day.
Finally, time in nature has shown positive effects on creative thinking. When we expose ourselves to ‘mellow’ or relaxing environments, our prefrontal cortex – aka the creative juices – is activated and our imagination is free to wander. It’s the same reason we think of our best ideas in the shower or have a lightbulb moment while taking a walk. Allowing our brains to drift, relaxes us and allows for a free flow of ideas and creativity.
Sweet, sweet Vitamin D. We all know we need it, yet many of us still lack it. Vitamin D is created and activated by sunlight being absorbed by our skin. The sunshine vitamin helps our bodies absorb calcium which benefits bone health and possibly reduces the risk of cancer.
Spending time outdoors also promotes physical activity. Many sports, hobbies, and games played outdoors put our bodies in motion and keep us moving. In fact, research shows that people who exercise outdoors are more likely to stick to a future routine than those who exercise only at the gym.
The relaxing energy we experience spending time outside is good for our hearts, too. Being outside reduces cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate – all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Allowing ourselves to forget – just for a moment – about the suffocating stresses and worries of the inside world gives our bodies a chance to ‘breathe’ and creates a feeling of renewal within us.
Lastly, getting outside resurrects an appreciation for our environment, nature, and all the wildlife that we share our home with. It reminds us of our responsibility to each other and to the environment. Spending time in nature connects us back to the roots of our ancestors and allows us to create special moments with one another.
As research unveils more and more benefits of a connection with the outdoors, urban greenspaces continue to grow in cities all over the world. City officials are realizing that nature must be woven into the fabric of their city, or its people will suffer – in more ways than one.
In addition to having happier citizens, neighborhoods with abundant green space experience lower crime rates. The hypothesis? These outdoor green spaces create a community. A shared community space means strangers become neighbors and neighbors become friends. More often than not, a connection with nature brings a deeper human and friendship connection.
Don’t let summer pass by without creating some memories with friends and families and spending time outdoors. Your mind, body, and community will thank you along the way. So get out, go play, and take a break.
I’ll start. I’m going for a walk.
BY: CORRINA FRANCIS
Comments will be approved before showing up.