When I was in college I read a study that says students concentrate better when they surround themselves with greenery or just “green.” As a Boston University student, I would go study on “BU Beach” or go to Boston Common whenever it was warm enough out (i.e. finals!) I always enjoyed studying that way more, but thought that was just my Vermont roots pulling me outside. We all feel better after being outdoors or in a space with lots of plants and light, and let’s explore some of the biological reasons why.
In this Harvard study, researchers concluded that women who spent more time outdoors had lower mortality rates. Wow! That’s a huge claim. Being outside can literally help you live longer. The study can’t attribute exactly what is causation and correlation, but they connect very interesting dots.
Being outside increases your Vitamin D intake, which can lower depressive feelings. Many people buy sun lamps to help them through winter, but then don’t get outside as much in spring / summer for that natural Vitamin D. Have breakfast on your front steps. Walk to the library. Walk to yoga. It doesn’t have to be some crazy, extreme thing that brings you outside. Try to take one walk per day and see if you feel lighter.
Being outside can mean you are exercising more, which can increase heart health. The idea of exercise can be incredibly off putting. But exercise can be walking your dog, chasing your kids, jogging. It doesn’t have to be something that results in 6-pack abs! I’m trying to reframe exercise as joy. Think about it. If I’m running and listening to music that makes me happy: it clears my head, it engages me with nature, it lets me feel alive. My body is doing that work. If I’m huffing and puffing after losing a game of tag with my students (I’m a public school teacher too), I’m creating memories that they will carry with them and reminding them that adults can be childlike too.
Being outside can mean you are being more social, which can make you happier. Take a chance and ask to play pick-up soccer with that group in the park. Bring your headphones for a walk and have a long talk with a friend on the phone. Have your partner come and use it as a time to catch up on real life and not just those quick what-do-we-need-from-the-store questions. Your kid can also come, ask them about their day in a way that gives them space to meaningfully answer and connect with you.
Whatever of these reasons speak to you- get outside! It can be so easy to feel it’s too hot or too cold or I don’t know what to do. Go bike. Go Yoga in the park and watch the ducks or find a turtle to have a staring contest with (they always win!). Call an old friend and ask them to meet you for a walk. These are such small ways to get outdoors, but science says, and I also believe, they could literally save your life.