Can going outside make you happy?

When was the last time you spent quiet time alone in nature? If you are anything like me a busy schedule keeps you at work or in front of the computer screen most days. On an intuitive level, most of us know that making time to go for that long walk in the park, or swim in the ocean is good for us. It just feels great. I know that after a long week, I physically crave time in front of the ocean, or amongst the trees.

I spent the first 18 years of my life living in the countryside of rural Nova Scotia, Canada. My family home is (my parents still live there) on a dirt road, which leads to another dirt road beside a farm. In one direction there are fields of grass and hay with the occasional heard of cows, in the other direction, trees, trees and more trees until you get to a small lake. After about the age of 10, I hated growing up there. I’m not  particularly woodsy, and longed for the action and diversity of city life. However, looking back, I realize that my country upbringing has made me more grounded, literally.

I love a good research paper, and I have come across more than a few recently touting the benefits of connecting with mother earth. One of the most impressive findings comes from the UK, where a study has shown that

After a short walk in an outdoor green space, 71% of participants reported a reduction in the symptoms of depression.

This is a pretty impressive finding given that some studies show medication for depression is usually effective for only 50% of people who try it.

What is even better still, is that nature is FREE for everyone to enjoy and there are no nasty side effects. There have been heaps of other studies conducted on the benefits of being in nature. Some of their results report that being outside can increase (cancer fighting) white blood cell count, increase positive emotion, happy memories & emotional stability. I don’t know about you, but if going outside can help me fight cancer, become happy and emotioanlly stable, I’m in!

The subjects in these studies spent anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours outdoors. Here are some of my fav ways to get outside even when time is tight.

  1. Exercise outside : If you already make time to exercise you can kill two birds with one stone (eek, not litteraly please). Instead of jogging on the treadmill get your feet onto mother earth or take your yoga mat to the park.
  2. Work outside: If you have any freedom or flexibility in your work schedule take it outdoors. Bring your laptop and ‘borrow’ wifi from someone, or bring your own internet.
  3. Get up earlier and take a walk: This is one of my all time favs. Getting outside in the early morning air lights me up inside. It also makes a pretty damn glorious start to the day.
  4. Have your lunch in a green space: If you can’t take your work out side, try to have your lunch in a park or even under the nearest tree.
  5. Take up an outdoor hobby: Surf, run, start a garden, take up bird watching. We are designed to be outdoors, find something you LOVE doing and take it outside

Nature is our home, so it is no surprise we are happier and healthier in her presence. So shut your laptop, leave your phone inside, and get thee to a green space.

If you have a favorite way to explore the outdoors, leave a comment below!

1 comment

Les Higgins

Immediately I set off on a walk in our Australian bushland, I can feel myself relaxing. I am no longer surprised by this because the de-stressing effect of nature is well documented scientifically.

November 4, 2013 (15:29) - Reply

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