Last weeks #HealthyHabits2017 Challenge was to get outside everyday. We've had a couple of challenges where we've said to go for a walk and be active outside but we've not looked at the health benefits of being outside in and around nature. Which comes with its very own array of benefits.
Take vitamin D for example, the only way to get really enough of it aside from supplements is to be outside. Most people actually get their daily dose of this vitamin from the sunshine. Being outside for just ten minutes a day with your skin exposed is enough to get all you need and you do need it, do this before putting on some sunscreen for protection. Vitamin D helps with everything from working wth calcium to protect your bones, it helps with cell growth, your immune system function and reduces inflammation.
Another thing that’s helped by being outside is that being in nature increases your brain function. Kids who play outside are more likely to have better concentration skills than kids who just spend time indoors. Being outdoors also helps you feel more awake, the light your eyes receive in 20mins just from being outside increase your cortisol production and actually make you feel more lively. Also just going for a walk or a leisurely stroll can increase your creativity and influence novelty in your thinking.
Being out in nature is also great for reducing stress. Just by being outside has shown evidence of lowering your heart rate which in turn reduces stress. The colours, the fragrances all have an effect on your. Scents like rose, jasmin and lilac are proven to increase relaxation, and pine can lower feelings of anxiety or depression. You can use essential oils at home but what’s better than being near the real thing? Being outside also helps us shift towards being in more positive moods.
If keeping fit and healthy is your thing, then being outside also makes this feel more doable. People who exercise outside or around the colour green feel their workouts are easier and are more likely to stick to a regular activity than people who just attend the gym. If you were to climb a mountain one day you would also feel the effects of high altitude speeding up your metabolism while simultaneously lessening your hunger cravings. All the more reason to get out and go hike a mountain.
HOW DID IT GO?
Last week was lovely. I managed to get outside everyday apart from Tuesday where it decided to rain in London all day, so I just took to staring out of the window when I had a moment. The only time being out in the rain is any fun is when you can go straight home and change out of wet clothes into pyjamas.
A couple of the days I just walked to places I needed to get to as this was the only time I had to do the task with a busy work load, meaning I appreciated the exercise and the mental break from a full on project.
Another day I went to the beach while visiting home and despite feeling rather exhausted from the previous week it was so nice to just lay on the pebbles and listen to the roar of the sea - as if the earth was breathing around me, all while my partner played with our dog throwing stones in the sea for her to chase.
Lastly on Sunday it was lovely, sunny and warm and I took a blanket into my mums garden and just napped under the shade of a tree for most of the day. It was welcomed relaxation time and really nice to just do this outside in the safety of a private place that was well shaded from onlooking neighbours.
Each time outside I felt calm, relaxed and also when walking without the distraction of my phone, I felt it was a little easier to think through problems I may have been needing to contemplate whether personal or work related, especially when walking. Sometimes when I've been working too much I forget to get outside when it's really as beneficial for me to take a break as it is to keep going so I'll use this week to act as a reminder to put the pen down and get outside more often no matter how busy I am.
This week we're saying no to things. Let's see how we do.
Image by Reuben Wu