The Happiness Effect of Being Outdoors

You’ve probably already heard at least once or twice in your life that being outdoors is good for you, but did you know just how good it is for you? The benefits of being outdoors goes beyond just a positive change in attitude – it can help you stay focused, boost creativity, and even add years to your life!

Nature is a natural stress buster. Numerous studies will show that spending time in nature has been proven to lower stress levels. Though the exact cause is unknown, just being out in nature – surrounded by tress, grass, flowers, mountains, etc – can calm you down and lower your heart rate. One theory for why this happens is because being outdoors makes us feel connected to the bigger picture of life and distracts us from the every day annoyances that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

Being outdoors makes you more caring. Maybe it’s the increased feeling of relaxation, but a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that being outdoors for just a few minutes each day can make someone a more caring person. If you’re a city person like me, years of being in the concrete journal may have turned you a bit cynical, and a walk or bike to work, instead of driving or taking public transportation, may be just what you need to kick your empathy switch up a notch!

The outdoors boosts concentration and creativity. In one study of children with ADHD, it was found that those who played outdoors had fewer symptoms of ADHD compared to kids who played inside, even when they were playing the same activities. A second study showed that taking a walk outside helps ease brain fatigue and increases a person’s ability to concentrate. Also, another study found that walking outside increases creative prodution and influences novelty. So next time you’re experiencing writer’s block or having trouble coming up with the next big idea at work, take a walk around the block and let the inspiration envelop you!

Outdoor exercise is the best exercise. Yes, all excerise is good excerise, as it releases those endorphins that make us feel great, but studies published in Environmental Science & Technology compared indoor exercise with outdoor excercise and found a decrease in the risk of mental illness and an increase in happiness associated with outdoor exercise. Also, other research showed that those who exercise outside are more eager to return for a future workout than those who stick to the gym. So, next time you’re considering a trip to the gym to walk/run on the treadmill, consider a run outside instead. Not only will you save money, but you’ll feel better too!

Sunshine is a great source of Vitamin D. A chronic lack of sun exposure has been linked to seasonal affective disorder, fertility problems, depression and even some forms of cancer. Sunlight is your body’s preferred form of Vitamin D, so even if you take Vitamin D supplements, it’s extremely important to get at least 10 minutes of sun exposure each day. Vitamin D is vital for bone and cell growth, it reduces inflmmation and boosts neuromuscular and immune function.

Vitality. The best cure for the Monday blues or Wednesday slump, is a visit with nature. In 2010, the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that spending time in nature provides people with a greater sense of vitality, which includes increased energy and a heightened sense of well-being. So forget coffee or energy drinks – nature is the original, all natural and free source of energy.

Longevity. Research published in the Journal of Aging Health shows that getting outside on a daily basis may help older people stay healthy and functioning longer. Also, outdoor activities in a group setting – exercise, gardening, etc – have their own benefits for older people. In fact, research shows that gardening can help dementia and stroke patients improve social skills and confidence, while even increasing mobility and dexterity.

 

So, what are you waiting for? Get outside!

Jillian Chertok