This week, I read a New York Times article, “The Other Side of Languishing Is Flourishing,” that got me thinking about what it truly means to live the good life, particularly now, amidst a worldwide pandemic we all thought would be over a year ago. It should be no surprise that the pandemic has taken a toll on our overall wellbeing and has left many of us drained. Still, Blum writes of “hope [in] the air:”
“A growing body of research shows that there are simple steps you can take to recharge your emotional batteries and spark a sense of fulfillment, purpose and happiness. The psychology community calls this lofty combination of physical, mental and emotional fitness ‘flourishing.’”
There is much agreement amongst my team at 6AM Health that getting outside is one sure way to get back to a state of “flourishing.” And if you still aren’t totally on board?
Here are the top 4 reasons why we think you should be spending more time outside:
1. Being outdoors has a demonstrated de-stressing effect.
In Japan a forest bathing trip, called “Shinrinyoku” in Japanese is a short, leisurely visit to a forest; it is regarded as being similar to natural aromatherapy. Related to this walk, one research study found that students sent into the forest for two nights had lower levels of cortisol–a hormone often used as a marker for stress–than those who spent that time in a city.
For those of you either in the office or working from home, another study showed that even a view of nature out a window is associated with lower stress and higher job satisfaction.
2. Your vitamin D levels could use a boost.
Sunlight hitting your skin begins a process that leads to the creation and activation of vitamin D. Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” has been shown to fight disease, reduce depression, and boost weight loss.
3. It could improve your ability to focus.
There is something overwhelmingly restorative about the natural environment. In this study, researchers worked to deplete participants’ ability to focus. Following this activity, some participants took a walk in nature, others took a walk through the city, and the rest just continued with their daily routines. When the groups returned and took a proofreading task, the nature group scored far better.
4. You’ll be happier.
Who doesn’t want to be happier? Being outside in the light tends to elevate people’s mood. For example, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder characterized by depression during times of year when there is less sunlight. Getting outside as summer comes around increases your natural sunlight intake and boosts mood while simultaneously helping to naturally regulate your circadian rhythm. While you are outside, it might be worth it to go for a walk or a brisk jog, as physical activity has been shown to help people relax and cheer up.
So, what do you think? What are your favorite outdoor activities?