10 proven benefits of spending time in the great outdoors

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Nature heals us. Spending time outdoors, in proximity to nature has proven benefits for our mental and physical health. Exposure to nature is known to reduce mental stress and promote creative thinking. Whether you are longing for the freshness of nature or suffering from creative block, spending time outdoors benefits our mind body, and soul. 

“Nature is not only nice to have, but a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive functioning”. 

These are the words of Richard Louv, the writer of the book ‘Last child in the woods’ and the man behind the recently discovered phenomena of ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’.

As we step foot in the 21st century, proudly basking in the glory of our technological marvels, do we not realise how far we are drifting from our natural beings?

It took us 6-7 million years to evolve from our primate ancestors to modern Homo sapiens. And, if we define urbanisation as the rise of the industrial revolution, less than 0.01% of our specie’s history has been spent in modern surroundings.

Interesting, isn’t it?

Humans are part of nature

The gap between natural settings in which our physiological functions are best adapted, and the highly urbanised and artificial environment that we inhabit is one of the contributing factors to the ‘Stress State’ in modern people.

Indoors Vs. Outdoors

Having chosen a sedentary indoor lifestyle as opposed to an active outdoor one, are we unintentionally bending the natural rules of the game?

Is that a contributing factor to the deterioration of our health and productivity?

Our present indoor practices are in sharp contrast to what our bodies have evolved over time. Some of the differences between indoor and outdoor practices show our deviation towards an unhealthy lifestyle.

Wasting another day, a man sleeps wasting his precious time

Aspects of indoor life :

– Promotes a sedentary lifestyle

– Surrounded by Artificial creations

– Regulated environment

– Deteriorates health

– Safe and Secure

– Does not induce experiential learning

– Ineffective daily interactions

Drawn by wonders of nature, a man delves deeper into the forest.

Aspects of outdoor life :

– Promotes active lifestyle

– Surrounded by natural creations

– Unregulated/wild environment

– Enhances health

– Wild and adventurous

– Induces experiential learning

– Impactful interactions

Marvelling at the beauty of waterfall while exploring outdoors

Ecopsychology – Outdoor – centric societal development

Ecopsychology is an expanding area of research that points in the direction that nature has an overall robust positive effect on all of us; mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Having realised this fact, some countries are proactively working towards the well-being of their citizens and future generations by introducing the outdoors as part of the educational curriculum from a young age.

Nature has a robust positive effect on us

Children in these countries are introduced to the outdoors where they learn to grow as members of the community and work on building trust and cooperation.

In the process, they’re also equipped with real-time problem-solving and many other life skills by the virtue of the outdoors and obstacles provided by nature.

Let’s take you through a couple of such outdoor inclinations adopted by various countries.

Shinrin Yoku

The literal meaning of this practice converts to ‘Forest Bathing’. This came as a boon for the overworked Japanese individuals.

Sunlight pierces the woods illuminating the forest

A poetic name given to time spent amidst green spaces and interaction with nature. Practitioners roam around in green spaces stimulating all their senses through different means i.e smelling natural fragrances, touching to identify the texture of nature’s creations, listening to the faint and ever-present sounds of nature, and watching the Natural marvels unfold before their eyes.

Forest Schools

Just like Shinrin Yoku, Scandinavian countries are preparing citizens for the future. Governments of these countries are encouraging parents to send their children to ‘Forest Schools’.

Learning by exploring: Children in forest schools
Forest Schools prepare children for tackling life difficulties head-on

Children in these schools not only learn the importance of nature but learn life skills through experiential means.

Seems like a Win-Win situation for everyone, right?

This curriculum became so popular that it found its way into the US and has risen exponentially over time, working as a catalyst to spread outdoor lifestyle/education like wildfire.

Science supports : “Nature is the best therapy”

We all are familiar with the positive feeling which takes over when we are outdoors. For a long time, deep down we knew how the outdoors helped us remain stress-free.

Have you ever wondered why?

Only Artists, particularly poets and painters were able to partly document these feelings through their medium of expression without any scientific backing to these phenomena.

But now, with the advancements in the scientific domain and increasing interest in understanding the impact of the outdoors on us, we finally have an answer.

Phytoncides are the magically suspended particles that make green spaces and the outdoors so pleasant. These are anti-microbial volatile organic compounds released by trees and plants to keep bugs and insects at bay.

Human Brain
Inhaling phytoncide has therapeutic effect on humans

When inhaled by us, Phytoncides stimulate the secretion of NK cells (Natural Killer cells) in the body which helps decrease cortisol, a primary stress hormone, thus rendering us at ease in the lap of nature. To read more about Phytoncides click here.

Unimaginable insights from the world of outdoors

– According to the study, when psychiatric patients were exposed to the outdoors, it promoted calm and reduced feelings of isolation in them.

– As per the study, green spaces around communities reduced crime levels in the community and helped establish better cohesion among individuals. A recent 2020 study also confirms this.

– Nail in the coffin was this study, which proposes that spending 120 minutes in the outdoors every week is necessary to reap the positive physiological benefits from the outdoors.

You must be well aware of the importance of the outdoors by now, and how the world is tackling this problem of ‘Stress’ in its young population.

10 proven benefits of staying outdoors

1. Improves short-term memory loss –

When we are outdoors there are fewer things calling for our attention, we tend to relax. In absence of attention-hungry devices, we focus on small things and our short-term memory enhances as a result.

2. Helps decrease depression and anxiety –

Feeling depressed or anxious? Take a trip to the outdoors to feel healthy again. Phytoncides help regulate our stress and BP as it controls the generation and secretion of cortisol, which is the primary source of depression and anxiety in our bodies.

3. Sunlight improves mood and vision –

Exposure to sunlight lightens our mood and helps reduce the risk of Myopia in children. It is also a great source of Vitamin D required by our bodies to stay healthy.

4. Strengthen the immunity –

Healthy doses of nature will challenge your immunity and improve your body’s ability to fight diseases. A 3-day visit to the outdoors produces white blood cell count in the blood. These levels of white blood cells stayed elevated for more than 30 days.

5. Fights Nature Deficit Disorder –

Children today know more DC and Marvel characters than local flora and fauna. Not just them, we are spending increasingly more time inside than ever before. This causes our bodies to drain out of the necessary energy required and be stressed without any reason. A visit to the outdoors ensures our bodies get adequate exposure to nature to keep ourselves healthy.

6. Increases longevity –

With clean air present in abundance, the outdoors also promotes exercise amongst communities living in the vicinity of green spaces. All this culminates in leading a healthy lifestyle, which in turn increases the longevity of our lives.

7. Helps heal quickly –

Any injury or surgery takes a toll on the physical and mental health of the body. According to a study, patients exposed to the outdoors required fewer painkillers and were able to heal better and faster than patients who are not.

8. Supports graceful aging –

Adults who spend time outdoors experience fewer sleep difficulties and did not complain much about aches and pains. These individuals also report easy mobility and perform daily activities with ease, supporting graceful aging.

9. Increases creativity and brain function –

Suffering from writer’s block? Or nothing inspiring you for your next creation. Take a trip to the outdoors to find that unadulterated and natural experience that might spark an idea in your mind. In the process, your brain will get that dose of the required oxygen required to keep it running flawlessly.

10. Makes you happy –

This is something you have known all along. Nature keeps you happy and what better way to experience it than being outdoors? Researchers are still not sure what causes this, but several studies point in the direction that our mood uplifts when we are outdoors.

Sounds refreshing, right?

Outdoor exposure is the answer to a lot of health problems and requires your willingness to push yourself to be outdoors. Spending just 2 hours weekly in the outdoors is enough for you to keep yourself healthy and age-ailment-free.

Outdoor exposure is the cure for a lot of health problems

Do not take your body for granted and give it that small dose of nature whenever you can. And, spread awareness about the benefits of nature and the outdoors amongst your peers.

OWLS is a community of dedicated individuals who want to spread nature’s word and help you get close to it. We educate on the practices to be followed to successfully tread through the outdoor world. Subscribe to our blog to read more of such informative blogs and keep yourself updated with the outdoors.

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