A guest post by James of Wilderness Redefined
I’ve always been a big believer in the power and the benefits of the great outdoors. I grew up in the countryside, so I suppose it’s only natural that I testify to the restorative benefits of being among some greenery. But I feel like this year has proven me right in a lot of ways.
Thankfully, it isn’t just me who feels this way. There’s an ever-increasing body of research from scientists across the globe studying the benefits of outdoor activity, like hiking for our physical and mental health.
So here’s the argument for why you should get out and enjoy the great outdoors, with some helpful tips for how to do so.
What are the benefits of the great outdoors?
Getting out into nature has a range of benefits to your physical health that is backed by research. Some might seem pretty obvious – like the association between walking in forest environments and improved cardiovascular strength. Others are slightly more surprising.
One of the stranger potential benefits linked with time spent outdoors I’ve discovered was the improvement to vision and health of eyesight in children. Increased outdoor activity was linked with a lower likelihood of developing myopia (near-sightedness) in school children.
Other benefits from spending time outside included better sleep quality and an improved immune system. But there are also benefits to our mental health that can be gained by spending time in natural environments.
Research has shown that spending time in an outdoor setting like a forest reduces self-reported stress levels as well as the prevalence of stress-related hormones in our body, like Cortisol.
People report that they feel less stressed after these interventions and their bodies show us that they actually are. Outdoor therapy for depression and anxiety is increasingly being explored by medical professionals due to the growing research supporting the restorative effects it can produce.
Those of us who live in busy, urban environments sometimes forget how draining it can be. Studies have shown that being in green spaces allows our brains an opportunity to relax away from the constant stimulation of a city demanding our attention.
When you don’t have to worry about things like watching out for cars that might hit you, for example, your brain can replenish its directed-attention abilities.
Essentially, by letting our brain relax away from urban stimuli it can work more effectively in other areas. For example, research has shown that backpacking trips in the wilderness can result in an increase in creativity by 50% according to psychologists.
In a world that is constantly focused on technology, taking a break and enjoying the benefits of the great outdoors has become even more important.
There is a range of benefits to your mental and physical health that can help you live a more balanced, healthier, and enjoyable life.
How to Get Outdoors More
Anyone who has spoken to me this year is pretty much guaranteed to have been told one thing:
You NEED to start forest bathing.
The practice started in Japan as a way to encourage an increasingly urbanized population to gain the benefits of being outdoors. “Shinrin-Yoku” promoted using the country’s 3,000 miles of wooded land as part of a healthy lifestyle.
One of the reasons it’s so popular is because of how easy it is to take part. Even in large, metropolitan cities, there are often parks with woodlands.
I live about a five-minute walk from a major motorway that cuts right through the center of Glasgow. I also live right next to one of the city parks with a forested area.
Walking among the trees, the sounds of the city are reduced to faint whispers. For a second, I can forget how surrounded I am by concrete, high-rises, and an endless stream of cars.
If you’re looking to head out forest bathing in more remote locations, make sure to bring the ten essentials with you in case of an emergency. The aim is for a happy and healthy experience, not one where you could end up in a stressful situation or injured.
There are some ways to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors without having to leave your house. I understand that, right now, not everyone feels comfortable spending a lot of time outdoors.
House plants are a great way to bring some of the great outdoors inside!
Plants like the Snake Plant help purify the air by absorbing toxins like carbon dioxide and release huge amounts of oxygen. English Ivy is another great plant you can grow inside that has been used to help treat various respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis.
It’s not just about purifying the air, either. The smell of plants like lavender has been shown to reduce anxiety in patients waiting at the dentists – so if you’re working from home right now, why not stick a pot in your workspace to stay level-headed.
If gardening is more your thing, that’s also a great way to enjoy the benefits of the great outdoors while caring for plants and flowers.
Just Be Outside
Some studies have shown that you don’t need to actually do anything when you’re outside. Just sitting in a natural environment can reduce stress.
So why not grab a book and sit on a park bench? Some days, as I’m walking through the forestry in my local park I’ll take 15 minutes to sit down.
Sometimes I read a book but other days I’ll just sit and watch the world go by. It’s so important to take breaks and look for ways to slow down.
This is a simple way to relax and unwind.
I love camping. There are so many reasons to do it. In fact, I’ve already written an article recapping nine of the science-backed benefits of camping.
Camping can be an expensive hobby to get into because it requires a lot of equipment. And generally, if you buy cheap gear you get cheap gear.
But for newbies looking for their first tent, the Coleman Sundome is a great option that is reliable AND low-cost. I’ve reviewed all the model options, and my personal recommendation is the Coleman Sundome 4-Person Tent.
If you’re still not sold on camping, maybe consider glamping as a more luxurious option.
Some hardened backpackers might turn their nose up at glamping as “not real camping”, but the idea behind the experience is to enjoy a blend of the beauty of nature and a unique accommodation experience.
However you plan to get out, spending a night in the great outdoors is a fantastic way to reduce stress, reconnect with the people you love, and get away from the pressures of modern life for a while.
Now Go and Enjoy the Benefits of the Great Outdoors!
So there you have it. I could go on about all the reasons to get out and enjoy the great outdoors forever, but hopefully, this list has given you a taste of why you should get engaged.
Whether you take up forest bathing and start venturing out on family camping trips or just spend your lunch break sitting on a park bench, there are lots of ways to gain the benefits of spending time outdoors.
James is a hobbyist camper and hiker, born and raised in Scotland. He runs the blog, WildernessRedefined.com where he aims to encourage making the great outdoors accessible to all and promote sustainable recreation and adventure to ensure generations to come can continue to enjoy the wonders of the wild.
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