Spend more time outside
Someone recently asked me what I consider to be the first step one should focus on when wanting to live a more holistic lifestyle.
They then went on to mention a list of starting points, including a diet change, a daily exercise routine, switching to only natural skincare products, meditation or perhaps adding some supplements to their daily routine. And yes, as important as all of that certainly is when wanting to switch to a healthier lifestyle, I don’t consider any of these to be the starting point.
Having said that, I replied to the message with the simple answer of “get outside more often”. Because I truly believe that spending time outdoors is the simplest, easiest (and not to mentioned cheapest) thing you can possibly do for your wellbeing.
As humans, we are drawn to nature. So much so, that there’s even an official scientific word for it; “biophilia”, exists to define the instinctive bond that exists between humans and other natural living systems.
1. Nature deficit disorder exists, and most of us have it.
Although scientists are just beginning to understand the health impacts of urban, mostly indoor living, one thing is clear — we need to put down our devices and get outside. It all comes down to the hard fact that a disconnect from the natural world leads to social, behavioral, and health consequences.
2. Being outside is good for your heart (literally).
3. You’re less likely to be overweight.
This relationship is most likely due to increased physical activity. Additional studies show that time spent in nature decreases blood sugar and cortisol, both of which are also associated with obesity.
4. You’ll be happier and improve your memory.
People who live close to nature experience less anxiety and depression. Walking in nature has been shown to improve mood and short-term memory in people with depression, as well as decrease rumination (repetitive, negative thoughts) and brain activity associated with mental illness.
5. You’ll fight off illness more efficiently.
Exposure to nature improves immune system function in otherwise healthy people, increasing the production of natural killer cells, an important part of our defense against viruses and cancer.
6. Your brain will work better.
In children, time spent in natural settings decreased ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) symptoms. In adults, contact with nature improves focus, concentration, and work productivity.
7. You’ll get more out of your exercise.
Being outside is good for your health, even without the benefit exercise. But if you do choose to exercise in nature, studies show that you’ll feel a greater sense of revitalization, energy, enjoyment, and satisfaction.
8. You’ll feel less pain.
Just looking at nature scenery in a photo or out a window can reduce our experience of pain (it’s no coincidence that your laptop’s default wallpapers are those beautiful natural landscapes).
9. You’ll sync up to nature’s rhythms.
Being outdoors, and away from artificial lights, helps synchronize your biology to natural circadian rhythms. Scientists investigating chronobiology, the study of biological rhythms, have shown that our connection to natural light/dark cycles helps to regulate our sleep, our moods, our stress levels, and our hormones.
10. You’ll practice mindfulness, naturally.
Setting aside artificial stimulation and immersing yourself in nature makes you more aware of your surroundings. You hear the rustle of leaves, and the songs of the birds. It’s mindfulness meditation at its most simple.
After all of that, it’s not difficult to see why I deem it the most important entry point to a more holistic lifestyle, now is it?
And please, DO NOT OVERTHINK THIS! I’m very much aware that we can’t all live on the beach, in a forest or next to mountains with hiking trails- on the contrary, you might live in an apartment, in the middle of the city, without a garden.
But the truth is, natural spaces are all around us, and it doesn’t have to be an hour long hiking trail. A slow and simple 15minute stroll around your neighborhood will do, or go sit under that tree outside your office window for lunch. Genuinely sit, and observe- even if you feel it’s a bit unnecessary- then let me know how much better you feel (I promise you will).
(All images are my own)