“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder
Life can be fast paced, sometimes hectic and sometimes monotonous. It can be the norm to drive to an office, sit there all day, before driving home and sitting in front of the TV. Some of us manage to make time for the gym and even then we drive there, and back, and spend the whole time within 4 walls. If this all sounds familiar, you might be getting less than 20 minutes outside all day! Maybe it hasn't really occurred to you that spending time outside is really a key ingredient for happiness. Let's find out why...
We hear it all the time, often parents telling children to 'get some fresh air, it'll be good for you' but what does that really mean? And do we all need some more? Getting some fresh air implies that air inside is perhaps stagnant and not clean and this isn't far from the truth. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says 'Indoor air pollution can cause big health problems.' mostly because of the gases let off in contained spaces, this can be anything from an air freshener, to cleaning products or deodorant. The benefits of fresh air are really quite amazing. Being outside allows our bodies to breathe more deeply and inhale more oxygen. More oxygen means our bodies can work better at digesting food, bringing clarity to our minds and increasing serotonin levels (often known as the happy hormone).
Studies show after a 30-minute walk in the park, 71% of people feel less stressed, while 72% of people who walk indoors actually feel more stressed. It's easy to see why, ever arrive at the gym and it's so busy you have to wait for the treadmill? So you get out your smart phone and aimlessly scroll when you could be outside running free without restrictions! Lets say you do get on the treadmill but you end up watching TV while doing so, the mind numbing kind. You 'switch off' from reality and think that's a good thing when it couldn't be further from the truth. Try switching things up, go for a walk or jog outside, observe others, notice trees and the different terrains.
Feeling connected to our bodies and our surroundings is one of the first things we practice in meditation and mindfulness. One easy way to practice this is to go stand outside; preferably in a garden - it could be in a park if you're not worried about what others think! Take off your shoes and simply feel the earth beneath you, perhaps you feel the grass between your toes? Close your eyes and focus on the senses, the force of gravity keeping you on the ground, wiggle your toes, listen for noises - inhale and exhale deeply.
Learning to be appreciative of all things is a great lesson. We can sometimes get complacent with the things we have and always be wanting more. By starting to appreciate nature we can learn to appreciate other aspects of our life. For example when out for a walk this week, I was grateful for the sunshine making it a lovely warm day for a walk but I was also grateful for a large tree for creating shade to rest in. I then enjoyed picking some fresh blackberries and took them home to make jam. This whole experience made me feel very happy and content. Go for a walk this week and find things to be appreciative of, you don't have to come home with something (like blackberries) to feel a great sense of achievement and happiness.