If you’re reading this article indoors, promise yourself this: as soon as you’re done reading, you’ll take yourself outdoors for some fresh air and wholesome sunlight (unless it’s nighttime, in which case, try this tomorrow). Because, if most of us are honest with ourselves, we don’t spend nearly enough time outdoors, causing us to be stressed, myopic, and worse. To stay healthy and productive, human beings need to get out of the concrete jungle periodically. Here’s why:
1) Sunlight is good for you
The World Health Organisation recommends getting 5-15 minutes of direct sunlight two or three times a week on your bare skin. That means no sunblock, no clothing, and no shade getting between you and those lovely rays. That’s the amount of sun exposure you need to produce Vitamin D and serotonin, both important for keeping you healthy and happy. Vitamin D is crucial for keeping your bones and immune system strong, and in forming red blood cells. Serotonin is a magical substance that ensures you’re sleeping when you’re meant to be sleeping (at nighttime, not on the commute home), and alert when you’re meant to be awake (not at 3am after binge watching series). It also helps to keep you happy, calm, and relaxed.
An adequate supply of both substances floating about your system stops you from feeling tired and cranky all the time. An inadequate supply could put a serious damper on your mood, well-being, and productivity. That’s why many people suffer from mild depression, or the more serious Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter months, when there’s less sunlight available.
If you live in a country with little sunshine, you can take Vitamin D supplements as an alternative. But if you live somewhere where those lovely yellow rays are abundant and free, why not take advantage of that? Just remember that too much sun exposure can be dangerous, so avoid baking yourself outside for hours at a time between 10am and 3pm when harmful UVB rays are at their strongest.
2) Fresh air is also free
There’s a reason you’re told to ‘take a deep breath’ when you’re feeling overwhelmed or angry. Getting a good lungful of fresh air pumps more oxygen into your bloodstream, helping to clear the cobwebs in your brain, and filling your system with negatively ionized atoms, which make you produce alpha brain waves. Alpha waves jack up your brain function, and spread themselves evenly across the left and right hemispheres of your brain, generating a feeling of peace. Negative ions also help you produce more serotonin, the happy substance we spoke about earlier. A good deep breath can even instantly lower your heart rate, making you ready for action.
And while the freshness of the outside air is doing wonders already, don’t forget the therapeutic effects of all that greenery around you. Smells like pine, rain, fresh cut grass, lavender, and orange can all help to stimulate a sense of peace, alertness, or comfort. We’ve discussed the benefits of using aromatherapy in your workspace here, but if you can get outside and inhale a good lungful of the real stuff – so much the better.
Decent quality air should be a basic human right, and most of us are lucky enough to live in places where there is abundant good air. But if you find yourself in a smog-filled city (perhaps one where fresh air comes in bottles!), it’s important to escape to the countryside as often as you can.
3) The great outdoors is waiting for you right now
We might not always do what’s best for ourselves – we might smoke, drink, not exercise enough and definitely eat too many doughnuts (because who can resist them?) – but our bodies intuitively know what’s good. Apparently just being in nature generates a sense of well-being, without us having to do anything more. Although scientists haven’t quite explained the phenomenon, they posit that the body instinctively reacts to things that are good for us. The Japanese therapy of forest bathing or Shinrin-Yoku has long tapped into the healing effects of Mother Nature. A simple walk in a beautiful forest could do anything from boosting your immune system, increasing your concentration and energy levels, to helping you achieve deeper intuition and more meaningful relationships.
When we’re out and about, we tend to be more active – hiking, cycling, running, or at the very least, walking. It could be because the colour green stimulates us to exercise more. In fact, the effect is so potent, it even works if you paint the walls of your workout room green!
In addition to general well-being and relaxation, being in nature could also improve our eyesight. Some mysterious combination of the colour green, the bright sunlight, and the organic shapes in nature help to combat the effects of too many hours spent staring at various screens. The risk of myopia (short-sightedness) is greatly reduced with regular outdoor time.
As a final and mysterious benefit of being in the great outdoors, apparently even our self-esteem rises! Something about being away from all the rubbish of cities helps us to take stock, get things back into perspective, and recalibrate on a more positive frequency.
So now that you have a bunch of reasons to step outside (and motivation to combat the inertia), why not reach out to a friend or potential friend on Kalido, and arrange a walk, picnic, or workout session in the great outdoors now.