Have you ever noticed how going on a walk outside can completely clear your head? When you’re out in the fresh air and can feel the sun shining on your skin, all of your problems just seem to melt away. Next time you feel like you’re going to explode with stress or frustration, hit the heal-toe express and go outside. We’ll accept your thanks in advance.
While giving yourself a second to cool off and clear your thoughts is always a good practice, science suggests that spending time outdoors is very important to our overall well-being. We like to lock ourselves inside our office buildings and comfy houses and deny the fact that we’re even part of the natural world, but it seems like denying this connection only works to our detriment.
So, if you consider yourself more of a couch potato than intrepid explorer, don’t worry; you don’t have to set out on an “Into the Wild” style trek to get the benefits of nature. Try spending an extra 15 minutes outside every day by going on a walk at lunch or taking the long route home. If you live in a concrete jungle, make the point to visit a park or search out a nearby green space to get your nature fix. We bet you’ll start to notice the difference pretty quickly. Here are some things to look out for:
1. You Might Sneeze Less
Going outside in the springtime can be a terrible experience for people with seasonal allergies; however, studies show that people who spend more time outdoors are less likely to suffer from respiratory allergies. Of course, if you already have serious seasonal allergies, we wouldn’t recommend going for a run in the middle of the spring. But, if you don’t, spending time outside could help protect you from developing allergies later on.
2. You’ll be Nicer
Seriously, spending time outside makes you a nicer person. Learning to relate to yourself in the context of the natural world versus “your” world, helps you to empathize with others around you. Studies also show that people are happier when they’re performing tasks and activities outdoors than they are doing the same things inside. So, instead of hitting the gym, go for a walk outside and you’ll be one step closer to a nicer you!
3. Your Brain Will be Sharper
Our indoor routines can become monotonous to our brains. We fall into patterns and our brains don’t get the kind of stimulation that they need to stay sharp. According to a study published in PLOS One, natural environments create a sense of novelty and excitement in our minds. Being outdoors allows our minds to wander and imagine in a way that artificial indoor environments simply don’t.
4. Stress and Anxiety Won’t be Such a Big Deal
“Ecotherapy,” a form of therapy that uses nature as a tool, is gaining prominence amongst the mental health community. A study performed by researchers at the University of Essex found that taking a walk in nature lowered the depression scores in 71 percent of participants. Nature sounds also seem to have a salutary effect on stress recovery. Even just looking at landscape posters has been shown to lower stress in people!
5. You Just Might Start to Develop Muscles…?!
Yes, it is true. The more time you spend in nature, the more likely it is that you’re doing some form of physical activity. While going for a 15-minute walk every day isn’t going to make you Popeye, you just might notice a little calf muscle definition. In general, people who spend time outdoors are more physically fit.
6. You Might be Inspired to Save the World!
Okay, maybe not the entire world, but at least a small part of it. A recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that participants who were exposed to nature were more likely to “engage in environmentally sustainable behaviors.” As Green Monsters, we are firm believers that you can change the world by making small changes in your behaviors. Leaving meat off your plate, banning palm oil from your shopping cart and striving to live waste-free are all wonderful small things you can do to help the planet. Why not go for a little walk and think on it?
So Green Monsters, stop sitting around and go outside! Once you do, let us know if you noticed any of these things. We sure hope you do!
Lead image source: Todd Petrie/Flickr