Whether you’re a couch potato or a hiking fanatic, you can benefit from spending some time outdoors. Throughout my years at college, I was constantly stuck inside classes and study rooms. I often felt depressed, overwhelmed, and stuck.
However, on sunny days when my friends and I would walk down to the nearby river, I would instantly feel a little lighter and a little happier. Once I started walking outside as often as possible and surrounding my desk with succulents and cacti, I naturally began to feel happier and calmer on a whole. Moreover, I felt more able to handle the everyday stress of college.
It turns out that there are some scientific explanations for why being outdoors can boost your health and happiness. Even 15 minutes of being surrounded by nature can make a difference to your emotional and physical well-being.
Feeling down? Is the laziness getting to you? Here are some options to help you:
1. Being outdoors often involves exercise
- [Image description: A gif of a woman jogging.] Via giphy
I think most of us understand, at least to some degree, that we should probably be exercising. But we may not know all the benefits that come with exercising outdoors. Exercise can lower your risk of heart problems, diabetes, and even some types of cancer. It is a great way to gain some muscle and can actually help strengthen your bones at the same time. In fact, exercise can even help improve your mental health, and some studies have shown it to lower depression. So head outside and take a walk, or climb a tree, or practice a sport! Have fun with exercise, and know that your body will thank you.
2. Spending some time in the sun can increase your intake of vitamin D
- [Image description: A gif of a man saying “Hey, you know, you should get out, enjoy the sun.”] Via giphy
Vitamin D can reduce your risk of diabetes, can improve bone health, and can increase your immune system. Many people are probably vitamin D deficient, so it’s important to spend some time in the sun — a great way to absorb vitamin D and reap these health benefits. Of course, remember to wear sunblock and moderate your time in the sun to prevent sunburn and skin cancer.
3. Interacting with nature can reduce stress, depression, and other negative emotions
- [Image description: A gif of a girl walking through nature.] Via giphy
Though there isn’t a ton of conclusive evidence yet, studies are showing that ecotherapy can reduce stress levels, as well as help ease negative emotions like anger and depression. Furthermore, even chemicals in soil might increase feelings of happiness, so dig in and see if working in a garden might become your new go-to mood booster.
4. Being outside can help you focus on something aside from yourself
- [Image description: A gif of a forest with sunlight in the background.] Via giphy
I know from personal experience that when mental illness or negative emotions take over it can be hard for me to look outside of myself and my personal problems. It’s easy to get stuck in a negative loop which can be amplified by social media or toxic relationships. Getting outside can be a great way to force yourself out of that cycle and to look at something other than yourself. Put away your phone and erase the distractions it carries with it. Focus on the plants around you, even spending time with animals can be a great mood changer.
5. The more time you spend outdoors, the more you’ll appreciate nature
- [Image description: A gif of a man saying “Life is about appreciating nature.”] Via giphy
It’s no secret that humans don’t have the best track record when it comes to taking care of the earth. Spending time surrounded by nature is a good reminder of why it’s important to try and reduce your carbon footprint and produce less waste. Try to appreciate nature for what it is and be sure to really feel the sun on your skin. Find an animal to play with, since we know it’s impossible not to smile at a cute animal. Whatever you do, get outside and take advantage of the many benefits the outdoors can provide.