As creatures that evolved in the great outdoors as part of nature, we humans are wired to be connected to the rest of nature. To stay healthy in mind and body, we who spend much of our time indoors need to make sure we keep in steady contact with the outside world. For those of us whose jobs demand that we sit in front of a glowing rectangle during the daylight hours, periodically stepping out is also an essential way to stay clear-headed and alert.
Still not convinced? Here’s a little science-based information to help coax you out the door.
Sunlight Exposure Is Good for SleepIf you’re getting bullied by insomnia, you might just need to stand up, look your oppressor in the eye and say, “Let’s take this outside.” As we’ve outlined in other articles like “Can’t Sleep? Get Some Sun,” getting some rays is a crucial way to correct an out-of-whack internal clock. Or, to put it more clinically, it’s a way to reset your circadian rhythm. We’re not kidding. This really could be the cost-free, life-changing hack you need (especially when paired with daily cardio exercise).
Watching the Sunrise Is Good for You
For the early risers among us, the simple act of getting some sunlight, mentioned above, can be especially effective when performed at dawn. That’s only one of the benefits of watching the sunrise, though. According to PsychCentral, it can also improve overall mood and concentration and reduce inflammation, stress and fatigue. It can even help you lose weight. Besides, it’s friggin’ gorgeous and medicine for the soul.
Horizon-Gazing Helps You De-Stress
As Standford neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman has noted, it’s common for the pupils to dilate and for the eyeballs to rotate slightly toward the nose during moments of stress. He claims we can reverse the stress response by gazing at the horizon (or into the distance if the horizon is blocked by buildings or trees). In Huberman’s words, this panoramic view “releases a mechanism in the brain stem involved in vigilance and arousal. We can actually turn off the stress response by changing the way that we are viewing our environment, regardless of what’s in that environment."
According to testimonies like this one, horizon-gazing can also help improve posture and alleviate eye fatigue—and negative thinking.
There Are Trees Outside
Studies have suggested that exposure to trees and other flora can have positive effects on our physical and mental health, as well as our attention span and memory. Other research shows that by removing pollution from the air, trees promote respiratory health and save human lives. Exposure to nature, and to trees in particular, may also boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and shorten recovery time after surgery.
Going Outside and Being in Nature Boosts Creativity
Based on the results of a 10-item test, the creativity of the 56 participants in a 2012 study by the University of Utah went up a full 50 percent after four days spent in nature. It just goes to show what can happen when we break away from the tractor beam of our electronic gadgets, step into the sunlight and breathe a little fresh air.
Here’s a bonus reason to be outside: It’s springtime and the flowers are blooming. Go enjoy.
Damon Orion is a writer, musician, artist, and teacher based in Santa Cruz, CA. He has written for Revolver, Guitar World, Spirituality & Health, Classic Rock, High Times and other publications. Read more of his work at damonorion.com.
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