It’s spring! Flowers are blooming, snow is melting, rain showers are falling, birds are chirping, and the sun is shining. This is the time of year where those of us who live in cooler winter climates finally begin to emerge from our shells, break free from our hibernation, and step outside our homes to engage with the rest of the greater world. It’s certainly a wonderful and exciting time of year!
Spending time outdoors in nature is good for us in many ways, and if it’s good for all of us, then it’s also especially good for people working on their own recovery and post-active addiction personal growth. Research has shown that many things about being outdoors are beneficial to our health, and by just spending a little bit of time outside each day, we can make great strides in improving our physical, mental, and emotional well being. Few people spend enough time outside these days, but with just a little effort and dedication, you can quickly increase your outdoor time, and soon you will be wondering how you lived without it.
The Outdoors is Good for You
There are countless reasons that being outside in nature is good for, besides the fact that well, it’s just plain nice out there. Research by a wide variety of scientists and institutions has proven that spending time outdoors actually results in real, tangible benefits for your overall health.
- Being outdoors encourages exercise. Simply being outside often makes us want to walk or run around, or just stroll and check things out. Wide open spaces are inspirational in that way! Further, research has shown that people who exercise outside are more eager to return for a future workout than those who stick to the gym.
- It promotes weight loss, too. Obviously, when we are more active, we lose weight more rapidly. But, according to this article in Wired magazine, something as simple as hiking or skiing at a higher elevation can help speed up your metabolism and thereby lesson your cravings for food – even if you are just visiting.
- Brain function improves when experiencing nature. According to research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, walking can increase creative production, and doing so outdoors can increase our innovative thinking. Further, a study that studied children with ADHD found that those who played outdoors more reported fewer symptoms than their counterparts who mostly played inside.
- Exposure to the sun results in greater vitamin D intake. It’s hard to get all the vitamin D we need from foods, so most of us get 80-90% of our requirement of this vitamin from the sun. Vitamin D helps our bones and cells grow, decreases inflammation, and improves neuromuscular and immune function. We literally cannot live without it, so increased levels of this vitamin alone should be reason enough to get you outside.
- Being outdoors helps to relieve stress. So many of us are indoors all day at work or school or caring for our small children that most of what we see all week is four walls, and most of what we hear bounces off of those same four walls. This can quickly cause stress which if left unchecked, can lead to depression. Spending time outside in nature can help lower the stress hormone cortisol in our bloodstream, according to research. Even if you are trapped indoors all day, simply taking the time to look out the window frequently can help with this to some extent as well.
- Your immune system needs to be challenged to work properly. If we are indoors all the time, our immune system is only exposed to the same threats over and over, and does not experience new ones. Without this exposure, it is impossible for our bodies to develop new forms of resistance. Having a strong immune system is vital to our health, so helping it to improve regularly can be helpful to you overall.
- Time spent in the outdoors can improve your vision and short-term memory. A study that followed 2,000 Australian school children found that the children who played outdoors had better vision and that the amount of time spent playing outside was nearly directly proportionate to a reduced likelihood of being nearsighted. Researchers believe that this is due to the fact that it is brighter outdoors, which keeps your eyes working all the time; in a dimmer indoor room, your eyes have less to see, and don’t work as hard. Further, a study of University of Michigan students were given a memory test before walking through a garden or down a city street, and were given the same test afterwards. The group that walked through the garden improved by twenty percent; the other group did not improve at all. Its interesting to note that both groups were outdoors, but one group was in a “nature” environment while the other was not; clearly, the type of outdoor time is important, not just the quantity!
- People who spend more time outdoors live longer. A study in 2015 studied 108,630 to determine the relationship between nature and longevity. Women who lived near open spaces such as parks, forests, and fields, had much lower mortality rates than women living separate from nature. The results were true for both urban and rural settings. It’s possible that these results were connected to some of the things mentioned above, but it could also imply that simply being near nature can help us to be happier and healthier in the long term.
How to Get Out There
Even if you consider yourself to be the biggest couch potato that ever lived, it’s easy to get outside! Even as little as thirty or even fifteen minutes outside per day can be beneficial, and once you start making it a priority and a habit, that length of time will increase naturally. You can participate in physical activities such as hiking in a state park, nearby forest, or national park, running or biking on a bike path, walking through a local park, golfing, or bird watching. Or, you can dive into more low-key, relaxing and mental activities such as working in a garden, fishing, meditating outdoors, reading outdoors instead of indoors, or having a picnic in a park. No time? You could also start riding a bike or walking to work, or take your laptop outside and do your work at a picnic table.
While you’re out there, you may want to try practicing the Attention Restoration Theory (ART). The idea behind ART is that in an urban setting, people are exposed to constant stimuli, such as the sound of jackhammers and people yelling. Our bodies and minds pay attention to these things even if we don’t realize it. If you are an urban dweller, it’s imperative that you get out into a natural area whenever you can, and using ART, reward yourself with exposure to more pleasant sights and sounds. Focus on natural sounds, look closely at a leaf or pinecone, watch a squirrel climb a tree. Experience the vastness of your surroundings and look at distant sights, too. This will result in greater feelings of pleasure and will help bring our minds down from mild panic mode and back into a more grounded place from which we can move forward.
In general and in closing, its clear that being outside is good for our mind, body, and soul. There is really no reason not to spend at least fifteen to thirty minutes or longer outside every day, even in cold weather. However, since spring has sprung across most of the USA by now, there is no time like the present to get out there and start enjoying it! Start today!
At Clear Sky Recovery, we appreciate the value of being outdoors, and we encourage all of our clients to spend as much time as possible during their stay with us at our pool or on the beach. We know that time in nature can be a big help to recovery from anything, especially addiction recovery. We would love to discuss with you all that we offer at our facility in Cancun, Mexico. Our ibogaine detox treatment is both ancient and innovative, and our intake specialists are standing by to answer your questions and, if you find that our program is right for you, to help you begin the intake process right away. We look forward to hearing from you!