I love being outside. I prefer experiencing the smells, sounds, and sights of the natural world more than sitting in a movie theater or an office building. The smell of fresh cut grass, seeing an eagle soar overhead, and feeling the soft sand under my feet as I walk across a beach—all of these are more real to me than the consistent 70-degree (20C) year-round indoor temperature.
While working at my last office job, I made a point to take outdoors vacations every year. Nothing too extreme, just a vacation that got me immersed into the real world of spiders, dirt, sunshine and clouds.
We live in an increasingly technologically connected world where we are often glued to our computers, iPhones or iPads. Having a technology break by taking a short trip outside for a walk can have huge health benefits.
Here are some benefits you’ll receive by adding more outdoor activities to your travels and life:
1. Fresh air
How deeply we breathe can affect our health. Being outdoors on vacation allows us to breathe in fresh, clean air. For me, nothing beats the crispness of fresh mountain air early in the morning, or the desert air at sunrise. Our breath brings life into our bodies—being outdoors can help return the joie-de-vivre to our experience. I like to take a few deep breaths outside every morning and thank nature for providing me with the oxygen I need to survive.
2. New perspective
Being outdoors changes what you are exposed to. This by nature will expose you to a new perspective. Walking on a trail or the beach, seeing the sunset over the mountains, or watching a huge thunderstorm—these all offer a different perspective than the day-to-day life most people experience. Being outdoors makes us vulnerable to the whims of nature, but also connects us to the deeper rhythms of the planet.
Taking time each day to go outside can help us to ground ourselves. There are benefits to physically standing, walking on, or recreating on or in natural surfaces. Grounding can help calm the nervous system, reduce stress, and encourage a sense of wellbeing. I find that walking on some type of natural surface—forest trail, beach sand, dirt horse corral—helps me to slow down. Something about the undulations of the surface, its non-linearity, its give when I walk on it… something helps me to feel more connected to life.
4. Connect to nature
By being outdoors, we are in nature. You can see a bird flying, or a leaf falling from inside your apartment, house, or office. But you can hear it, smell it, sometimes taste or feel it when you are actually there. The rain looks one way from inside; it looks and feels differently when you are outdoors. Similarly, the sunshine feels nice through a window—you can feel so much more connected when you are outside walking, gardening, or sitting on a patio than you can indoors.
5. The sunshine vitamin
Being outdoors is one of the ways we can get our recommended intake of vitamin D. Vitamin D can be synthesized by the body through exposure to sunlight.
6. Slow down
Nowadays, it seems everyone is busy. Too busy for this, too busy for that. Nature continues on, regardless of what we as humans think or feel. Plants grow in the spring and summer, cleanse themselves in the fall, and slow down over winter. The pace of growth and decay is on a different scale than we are used to seeing. When you are outdoors on a run or a hike or a walk, you can see the leaves fluttering in the wind. You can see the ants moving through the grass. You see that there is rarely a need for hustle and bustle and hurrying—the time constraints many people operate by are imposed from without. Nature allows what happens to happen at its pace, rather than try to force it into an eight hour day. Being outdoors rarely makes me feel as if I have to hurry, unless I am running from a lightning storm.
7. Be present
Nature is ever changing, dynamic, and unpredictable. You can go outdoors today and wear shorts and a t-shirt; tomorrow you may need a beanie, hoody, and pants. Being outdoors encourages us to be present in the current conditions—the wind or the sun or the rain or the snow. It may not always be the weather you expect or desire, but the act of going into the outdoors, even to run errands, requires you to pay attention to the current environment and to adjust appropriately. If you zone out and walk outside in cotton clothes during a west coast rainstorm in November, you will quickly become cold, wet, and hypothermic. The changes in the weather occur outside of your home, office, and control… and they necessitate you adapting to them to be comfortable.
8. Feel better
Stressed? I suggest going for a walk outside. I feel much better getting outside for at least some part of my day. Feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, smelling the growth of the garden, hearing the wind blow the leaves in the maple trees… all of these contribute to my mood improving, regardless of the issue I am thinking about. No matter the weather—cold, snow, rain, sun or wind—I make a point to go outside for at least at 15-minute walk every day. I feel better because I’ve taken time to experience the natural world on its terms.
There are many benefits of going outdoors. What are some of the benefits you receive from being outside?