By: Mecca R. Dennehy
Escaping to the outdoors is not anything new: We’ve all experienced the urge to jump in the car and drive to the nearest lake, or grab your hiking shoes and hit the trail to catch the sunset after a stressful day at work. It almost feels like it’s in our genetics to escape to nature, either for a break from something unpleasant, or to simply enjoy the change of scenery. Whatever the case, we all know that after we have immersed ourselves in nature we come out feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Ever wondered why we feel so good after being outside? We did too and found some amazing research to explain why being outside can be good for your health.
To get technical, the physical responses our bodies have when in nature are a reduction in blood pressure, a lower heart rate, and a decrease in the stress hormone, cortisol. This allows our bodies to slow down, which makes us feel calm and relaxed. When this happens, our brains are also able to relax, which can reduce anxiety. Another healing force nature has is scent. The smell of jasmine, lilac, and rose have been proven to reduce stress.
If you’re struggling with depression but want to try a natural approach, try nature therapy. A University of Michigan study found that group nature walks helped lower depression, reduce stress, and improve mental well-being. The smell of pine also helps lower depression and anxiety, so a forest walk might be the perfect mood booster.
Improve Focus and Creativity
When we feel calm, we are able to improve our focus and think more creatively. With distraction aside, new ideas come to us easier and faster. If you’re stuck on a big project, take a nature break to clear your head. Once your mind has eased, begin to look around and take in what you see: ferns, dirt, the smell of pine; you’ll find that once you do that, ideas will come to you, and a solution may appear. Sometimes, it’s not about finding a solution in nature, but letting go of the distracting thoughts to be able to see the solution.
For kids, being outside is a great way to boost creativity, increase their attention span, and allow them to explore. It also helps with fighting chronic health problems like diabetes and obesity. From something as simple as a family hike, to building sand castles or bringing paper and paint to create art outside, the outdoors is a safe haven for kids to grow and express themselves.
Help Us Age Gracefully
The outdoors isn’t just for the young ones. Getting outside is great for anyone at any age, even for older generations. Research from the Journal of Aging Health showed that older people who participated in outdoor activities on a daily basis helped them stay healthy longer: they had lower skeletal pain and less sleep problems than the senior citizens who did not spend regular time outside. Gardening can also help seniors who suffer from dementia or have had a stroke with social skills, confidence, and mobility. And, with all the benefits listed above, spending regular time outside is simply good for the body and mind, and will help you stay healthy.
We all know the feeling of being outdoors. When you take that big breath of mountain air and you feel your chest open and your shoulders relax for the first time in what feels like forever, and your mind gets hit with all of that oxygen and all the distractions and worry fade away as you take in your surroundings and feel completely present where you are. Taking a walk with your loved one, holding hands as the river runs alongside you, or a picnic with your family. Those little or big moments do wonders for your health, whether you realize it or not. So, we hope this article has shed some light onto the facts behind why being outdoors, at any age, is great for your health and has inspired you to make the outdoors a regular self-care routine.
About the Author:
Mecca is an adventure writer and photographer based in Oregon and loves everything the rainy PNW has to offer. You can find her hiking to alpine lakes or camping with her husband and her two rescue pups, Finn and Ruby. She is also an adventure wedding and elopement photographer and loves to capture couples as they start the most epic adventure of all together.