Life can be a balancing act, and keeping up with work, family, and other responsibilities can take its toll. Technology has made it easier to spend more time indoors, but if you’re not getting enough time outdoors, you may be missing out on some amazing health and wellness benefits. Whether you enjoy taking a stroll in the park, going on long bike rides, or enjoying the serenity of camping, here are five ways spending time outside can increase your physical and mental well-being.
- Being in nature provides you with a dose of vitamin D
The biggest source of a vitamin D deficiency is a lack of exposure to sunshine. Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D has a significant impact on a wide variety of bodily functions. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may include a weakened immune system, increased fatigue or tiredness, back or muscle pain, slow wound healing, depression, and hair loss.
While vitamin D can be found in certain foods like milk and salmon, the best way to get your daily dose of the essential vitamin is by soaking up plenty of fresh sunshine. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium that encourages bone support. It also supports a healthy immune system and increases resistance against certain illnesses.
- Nature helps to combat the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Also referred to as SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that stems from seasonal changes such as shorter fall and winter days that feature lower light levels. The reoccurring disorder can trigger symptoms of intense sadness, exhaustion, anxiety, and extreme fatigue. Spending more time outside can lessen the unpleasant effects of SAD – even if the weather is cool or overcast.
In fact, even viewing beautiful scenes of nature can significantly reduce feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety. Our brains are naturally programmed to find plants, trees, water, and other elements from nature to be pleasing and soothing. For that reason, many hospitals, schools, and offices opt to place plants throughout their buildings to promote decreased stress and anxiety levels.
- Spending time outside is a natural stress reducer
Have you ever noticed that whenever you spend the weekend camping or take a rigorous hike through the woods, you instantly feel more relaxed and rejuvenated? Mentally, you might feel calmer and happier, and physically, you may feel energized and rested.
Breathing in some fresh air can make you more alert and awake. Taking time to put the brakes on the daily grind and unwind in nature can decrease your heart rate and cortisol (a.k.a. the stress hormone) levels. When you allow nature to awaken your senses, you’re able to free your mind of technological distractions and the daily stresses of life, resulting in an increased sense of inner rest and relaxation.
- Being outdoors can promote healthy sleep patterns and a better mood
A lack of daylight has a direct impact on serotonin and melatonin levels. While serotonin is linked to your mood, melatonin is a hormone that helps to regulate your sleep cycles. In the daytime, melatonin levels are lower because of sun exposure, so you feel more alert and awake. During the night, your melatonin levels increase, letting you know that it’s time to head to bed.
If you’re not spending enough time outdoors each day, your serotonin and melatonin levels can get out of whack. You may begin to feel sluggish, fatigued, and depressed. The best way to get your serotonin and melatonin levels back on track is to spend even just 10 to 15 minutes outside each day.
- Being outdoors can give your immune system a boost
When you take time to literally stop and smell the roses, you may be giving your immune system a much-needed boost. The presence of phytoncides, which are healthy airborne chemicals that are emitted by plants, may help to increase white blood cell levels. Just as phytoncides serve to protect plants and trees against harmful pathogens and insects, they may help you fight off certain diseases or infections. Phytoncides have antibacterial and antifungal properties, and even breathing in these important chemicals for just five minutes a day could have a significant impact on your immune system.