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The healing power of nature – why spending more time outside is a win

7 minute read

These days, it’s possible to spend all our time in artificial, indoor environments. But while electric light may ensure we can see clearly, and make spaces appear bright and airy, our bodies are not fooled.

Spending time outside and absorbing genuine sunlight is essential for good health. And while artificial environments can be beautifully designed and constructed, nothing beats the health-boost afforded by spending some time in nature.

We look at just some of the benefits of getting outside.

Better sleep

Did you know that getting enough daylight can help you sleep at night? Spending time indoors under artificial light may help us to work and manage our daily activities, but our natural ‘body clock’ responds differently to natural light.

Making sure we get outside during the day helps to signal to the brain that we are up and about. When darkness falls, our bodies then respond to release melatonin, which helps us get a good night’s rest. And it needn’t take long. You should start feeling this benefit after just spending just 20-30 minutes’ outdoors daily.

Better mood

As well as helping us get some shuteye, spending time outdoors has been proven to work on lifting our mood. Scientists believe that spending time in the sun helps to boost our serotonin levels – helping us to feel more positive and upbeat.

Gain extra benefit from taking your outdoor time in a natural environment, whether this is a local park or a nearby forest or lake. Studies have shown that, as well as being pleasant and restful, time spent in green spaces helps to reduce depression, stress, and anxiety.

Better mind

Finding it hard to focus? Can’t puzzle out a work problem? Or finding that your creativity has dried up? Try stepping outside for a break. Studies have shown that outdoor time is great for our memory, attention-span and creativity. Plus, just 20 minutes in a natural environment has been shown to have a positive impact on intelligence levels and reasoning.

Better body

While sitting in the sunlight or lazing in the park might not do much for your cardiovascular health, it’s likely that if you aim to spend more time in nature you’ll naturally become more active by default.

Getting away from your desk and stepping outside means less time sitting, and more time getting physical. For an extra boost, try taking your outdoor time in a forest environment – something that has been shown to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels.

Better health

Exposing your skin to sunlight also helps to top up your Vitamin D levels. This nutrient is essential for bone health, and also benefits your brain, heart, and even teeth. For an optimum Vitamin D hit, try taking your dose of sunshine in the middle of the day – a time when your body is most efficient at making this nutrient. To avoid burning, apply sunscreen after 10-30 minutes and keep a close eye on your skin to ensure you don’t overdo it..

Better balance

Whether it’s the pressure of work, or the mounting at home ‘to-do’ list, it can sometimes feel that we never have time for ourselves. But specifically planning spending time in nature into your day can be a great way to grab back some ‘me time.’ If you’re out in nature, you’re away from the trials and tribulations of everyday living, at least for a time. And if you’re worried that taking time out will mean falling behind, don’t be. Chances are you’ll return to the task in hand recharged with clearer thinking.

Tips for finding the time

With many of us leading busy lives, fitting in time for outdoor activities may seem impossible. But with careful planning you can incorporate this essential activity into your existing schedule…

Take a break
Whatever your profession, it’s likely you have breaks built into your day. Instead of using these to catch up on social media, take a moment to step outside with your restoring cuppa or glass of water and have a proper recharge. And stay away from your phone or mobile device screen.

Make a plan
When it comes to leisure time, many of us return to the same activities repeatedly. But see if you can swap some nature time into your schedule. Have a look locally and compile a list of historic properties and gardens, forests, rivers, and other outside beauty spots and aim to visit all those that appeal over a period of time. Ticking them off on a list may provide extra motivation.

Go alfresco
Yes you’re busy, but can you take your business outside? True it can be hard to create a spreadsheet in a forest, but shifting some of your working day to an outdoor space could help to keep your levels of outdoor time topped up while ensuring you meet your deadlines.

If you can’t get away from your desk during working hours, think of other parts of your day you can bring to the outside. Need to pop to the shop? Try going on foot. Cooking Sunday roast? Why not try a barbecue? Exercise class with friends? Arrange to go on a hike through local forests instead.

Finding ways to naturally relocate parts of your life is a great way to ensure you get your daily fix of the great outdoors.

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