Many of us spend the majority of our time indoors, breathing stale air, working under artificial light, and staring into glowing screens. While none of these things are toxic, at least in moderation, they can have a monotonous, if not negative, effect on both our performance and overall health, research shows.
What’s the antidote? More outdoors. Namely, spending more time walking in the woods, hiking in mountains, being near bodies of water, and simply just spending time in nature, under the sun, and breathing fresh air. Here’s the science behind the latest findings.
Being outdoors relieves stress, depression, and anxiety
When you’re mentally fatigued, you’re a wreck. Sufficient sleep is obviously the best way to overcome this, but multiple studies demonstrate that being outside can offer even more in terms of relieving stress, getting out of a funk, or worrying about things we cannot control. This is because the outdoors elicit feelings of awe more than indoors. In fact, the presence of outdoor water can help even more, which is why humans consciously congregate around lakes, rivers, and oceans as much as they do. Even something as simple as observing nature through a window can have a marked improvement on your mental health.
Being outside invigorates our mind, memory, and creativity
Not only are the great outdoors effective in clearing our minds to perform better, they’re actually capable of enhancing our senses and eventual output. For example, one study found that outdoor enthusiasts are a whopping 50% more creative than working homebodies. Another study by the University of Michigan found that regular nature walks improve memory by 20%. Moral of the story: if you want a cognitive edge when it comes to doing great work, get outside more frequently.
Sunbathing strengthens bones, soft tissues, and our immune system
One of the biggest problems with staying indoors too much is it creates a vitamin D deficiency, one of the most common among American adults. Before you blow this off as a “nice thing to have” instead of “must have,” remember that vitamin D plays a key role in how well our nerves, muscles, and even immune systems work. On top of that, vitamin D strengthens our bones and healthy levels of it (i.e. through 15 minutes of unprotected sun each day) is even associated with reduced risk of cancer.
Spending time outside lowers blood pressure
Hitting the red lines of your car’s RPM gauge is never a good thing for your engine. The same is true of high blood pressure. Overwork your heart and you run the risk of dying from heart disease, the number one killer in America. The good news is getting outside more is a proven way to reduce blood pressure. So if you want to stay in the game longer so you can have a more lasting effect on the work you pursue, get outside more.
“Nature bathing” improves both our literal and figurative focus
Successful business requires winning vision. Few would dispute that fact. And when it comes to improving both your eyesight and mental focus, few things are better than regular “forest” or “nature bathing,” according to several studies. So if you want to see clearly and focus more, surround yourself with the great outdoors.
On top of that, additional studies show that being outdoors can improve our sleep, mental health, and heighten our senses. What you do with this information is entirely up to you. Will you nod in agreement and then quickly forget it? Or will you schedule time on your calendar each day to worship and recharge in the outdoors? For your sake and ultimate performance, I hope you choose the latter.—Blake Snow