There are a myriad of reasons why getting out of the house and spending time outdoors are beneficial to your physical and mental health but we’ve chosen our top three to inspire you to open that door and step outside.
We know, we know. . . you just spent all summer lathering yourself up with SPF to protect yourself from the damaging rays of the sun and we applaud you for that healthy choice. That said, there are benefits to soaking up some of those rays. What usually comes to mind is the absorption of Vitamin D, which is actually a hormone created in the body via sunlight and it is essential for a healthy immune system. It’s linked to protection against osteoporosis, autoimmune disorders and heart disease and getting it naturally is far superior to Vitamin D supplements.
Something else to think about? While it’s true that most of the time we should be wearing UV protective sunglasses outdoors, some sunlight is essential for optimum eye health. Just a bit of time in natural light, will help to alleviate the effects of our modern habits of spending too much time in front of screens which can cause serious eye strain. Also, new research indicates that too much time in artificial light can bring on myopia, also known as nearsightedness.
Where would we be without oxygen? Just one mature tree can produce 260 pounds of oxygen a year, which is enough to support the needs of two people. So while you’re hanging out in nature, hug a tree and thank it for helping your white blood cells work optimally at killing and fighting germs and bacteria. Nature’s fresh air assists your lungs to dilate more fully and improves their ability at cleansing the body of airborne toxins, including the slew of indoor pollutants we are exposed to, and aids in digestion and relieving stress. So take those deep cleansing breaths in the great outdoors!
Engage Your Senses
Nature is a playground of exciting sounds, smells and other ways to engage our senses. Step outside, whether it be in the city or country, and the air is full with the songs of birds. Julian Treasure, with The Sound Agency, believes these special songs help to relax people physically but stimulate them cognitively, “People find birdsong relaxing and reassuring because over thousands of years they have learnt that when the birds sing they are safe, it’s when birds stop singing that people need to worry. Birdsong is also nature’s alarm clock, with the dawn chorus signalling the start of the day, so it stimulates us cognitively.”
When it comes to scent, it is our sense of smell that is most directly linked to areas of the brain responsible for processing emotion. This is why we link certain time periods of our lives or events with specific smells. Phytoncides are organic compounds emitted by trees and plants and inhaling them causes humans to slow down their breathing which in turn reduces anxiety. To get the benefits of phytoncides, some Japanese partake in what is called Shinrin-Yoku or “forest bathing” where quality time is spent walking through forests to promote improved mood, cognitive function, creativity and to relieve stress.