Between staring at a computer screen at work, juggling kids, chores, binge-watching Netflix and connecting on social media, we’re spending an average of 80 per cent of our time indoors. Unfortunately, this isn’t doing us or our families any good. Here are some quick, beneficial reasons to unplug and step outside.
1. You’ll be nicer
Studies show spending time outside makes you a nicer person. Learning to relate to yourself in the natural world versus ‘your’ world makes you empathise with others around you. Studies also show people are generally happier when they’re doing activities or tasks outdoors, than when they are doing the same things inside. So, if someone’s being mean or that meanie is you, go for a hike instead of hitting the gym indoors.
2. You might want to save the world
Or at least try to in small ways. A recent study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that participants who were exposed to nature were more likely to “engage in environmentally sustainable behaviours.” Having a meatless Monday, using less plastic and striving to live waste-free are all brilliant ways to help our planet. Why not go for a little walk and think on it?
3. Lower stress levels
Spending 20 to 30 minutes a day in nature significantly reduces stress levels by producing a drop in cortisol, the stress hormone, by nearly two times greater than in people who spend no time in nature, according to Dr MaryCarol Hunter from the University of Michigan.
Studies have also shown that walking in forests can also improve blood pressure, mental health and lower cancer risks. In Japan, forest bathing or ‘Shinrinyoku’, is fast becoming a stress management activity and treated as preventative medicine. Click here for a list of Western Australia’s diverse national parks and forests.
4. Boost your memory
If you’re finding yourself forgetting simple things or that your memory isn’t what it used to be, go for a nature walk. A study by The University of Michigan found that individuals showed a 20 per cent short-term memory improvement following a walk in nature, but no improvement for those who took in city sights – sorry city people.
5. Free vitamin D
Vitamin D is crucial to us humans. Yet, many people are lacking this essential vitamin. A simple way to get your Vitamin D is to spend a little time in the sun. When sunlight hits our skin, it leads to a process that creates and activates Vitamin D, which helps to prevent disease and infection and improves bone health. Light skinned individuals need about 10 minutes of sunlight a day, while darker skinned individuals may need 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight.
6. Breathe easier
If you’re experiencing symptoms like burning eyes, breathing problems, a scratchy throat, headaches, brain fog and fatigue, you’re probably spending too much time breathing indoor air. Chemicals from furnishings, building materials, household and office products can emit particles into the air, and don’t forget yucky mould, dirt, dust, and pet dander. Increasing ventilation will help, but it’s best for your health to get outside a little bit everyday for some fresh air.