A recent study found that as many as 25% (or 1 in 4) of people spend literally no time outside each day. That’s a pretty shocking statistic, no matter how you look at it, but when you really start to think about it, you can at least begin to understand how we’ve found ourselves in this situation. You wake up, get ready for work, hop in your car for the long commute, spend all day at work, commute home, and when you finally get there you’re exhausted so you turn on the TV and veg out. Before you know it a few hours have passed and it’s time for bed and you’ve literally not gone outside except to walk to and from your car. I’m not making excuses or saying this is acceptable, I’m just trying to help you understand how it happens.
Another shocking statistic shows that on average, people spend 10-12 hours per day in front of a screen, either the TV or a phone. We’ve become addicted to technology, and when you combine that with poor urban planning and overworking, there’s just no time left to get outdoors. There are many mental, physical, and emotional benefits of spending outside in nature and when you hear these statistics you can’t start to make see why, as a whole, have been declining in those three health areas. In the last thirty years, for example, obesity rates have increased 3x.
A small kids’ clothing company with a mission to get kids outside, called Sawyer, has offered up some compelling reasons on why should make getting outdoors and connecting with nature more of a priority.
1. The Calming Effect: When we’re outside it makes us feel peaceful and calm. More specifically it lowers blood pressure and heart rate and decreases cortisol levels. All of this adds up to an improved mood, lower stress levels, and reduces feelings of anxiety. I think we could all benefit from that.
2. Immune Booster: The immune system improves when it’s attacked or challenged and that doesn’t happen by hanging out all day indoors in a squeaky clean environment. This is a great excuse to get a little dirty and feel great by it, literally.
3. Energy Restoration: We all know that feeling of being depleted. Going outside into nature, or even just going outside and sitting on your patio can get rid of mental fatigue and restore your energy. One study showed that even just by looking at pictures of nature helps with this. The same effects weren’t duplicated by looking at pictures of the city.
4. Creativity: Nature is great for boosting your creativity. When you’re at working, considering walking to get lunch or even taking that a step further and eating lunch in a park.
5. Vitamin D: Most vitamins aren’t produced by our bodies and usually require us eating certain foods or taking supplements to get what we need, vitamin D is different and is actually produced by the body from the sunshine we soak up. If we’re not spending enough time outside in the sun then we can develop deficiencies for this vitamin.
Hopefully, these are compelling enough reasons for us to spend more time outside. I promise you’ll notice a difference in both your physical and mental health when you do. If you’re struggling for ideas or reasons to get out more, consider exercising outside, taking a walk or going on a hike, or taking up some new hobbies and activities.