How much time do you think people spend outside? If you consider our ever-evolving world of technology and urban development, that number is constantly dwindling.
There’s no way around it. Humans are spending more and more time inside of their homes, and overall, inside in general. People are overworking, logging long hours at the office, and taking no time to recharge their batteries. Moreover, especially since the pandemic, our general population has more home offices than ever before.
Ramifications from overworking, such as sitting for long periods, sleep deprivation, and a lack of exercise, lead to long-term health issues. So, if you find yourself in this position, what do you do? Imagine you’ve had a long week at work, turning in your last time-sensitive project, and now all you want to do is relax. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? For many of us, it’s a vacation.
Yet, we can’t always take a vacation. Sometimes, it’s due to a lack of time. Other times, we simply don’t have the financial means to do so. While I believe everyone should take a vacation several times throughout the year, getting away on those weekends in between vacations is just as vital. This begs the question, what’s a productive way to get away without truly getting away?
Often overlooked, one simple way is walking through a park. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve walked through some of my favorite parks, specifically when I was upset or stressed and left feeling more whole and balanced. As much as this method helped me, I never thoroughly examined why it made me feel so much better.
Sure, I know spending time outside is good for humans. I mean, the saying “a breath of fresh air” was coined for a reason. But why? Why does it feel like spending time outside makes us feel better? Well, it’s because it does. Studies show there are health benefits associated with spending time outside, including reduced stress levels and sleep quality. Knowing this, why don’t we spend more time outside? Firstly, some of us don’t quite understand the full extent of the benefits of spending time outside. Secondly, many who do are living in the technology age while simultaneously residing in urban areas.
There’s no getting away from it. We’re surrounded by technology, and our usage of it as a society grows each day. Screen time has increased year over year in both children and adults. Although cell phones were initially created to bring humans closer together, they’ve torn us apart from not only each other but nature, especially since the advent of social media. You’d be hard-pressed to find an individual with their eyes glued to birds flying in a park rather than their phone. Of course, we should make use of technology and its significant advances, but with good balance.
There’s also no getting around urban development. Our world becomes more urban each day, with sprawling communities seemingly rising up across the globe overnight. Metropolitan areas have been all the rage for decades now, and with them comes some perks, such as distance to shopping, restaurants, etc. However, the downsides include fewer green areas and places to submerge oneself into nature.
It’s estimated that by the year 2050, nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. What does this mean for our trees and greenery? Unfortunately, it equates to deforestation in the name of residential buildings for our ever-growing world population. This will eventually reach an inflection point, but that’s another conversation for a different day.
The takeaway here is not just spending time outside in the elements but also using that time effectively by engaging in your senses. Remain aware of the elements around you by using your sight, sound, and smell, but reach a point where you let the elements of nature come and go, taking and quite literally breathing in the natural area around you for its beauty and health benefits.
As with anything in life, any time you spend outside is what you make of it. Bask in the natural silence around you. Take a few deep breaths and listen to a bird’s distinctive call in your garden, smell the flowers or freshly cut grass, or close your eyes and let one of your senses take over. Another way to restore your connection with nature is by touch. Picking up a tree branch, running your hands through a stream of water, and feeling the texture of a rock are just a few ways to do so.
You should spend time outside as much as your schedule allows. By doing so, you will not only come back inside more refreshed but healthy. You reap the benefits of spending time outside by fully engaging your senses in nature. You can make the most of this time by breathing deeply and embracing the elements around you. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you later.