This is a guest post by Johnie Gall of DirtbagDarling.com.
I don’t have to tell you what you already know, but I’ll do it anyway: Getting outdoors will make you smile. There’s a natural high that comes with hiking, camping, paddling, skiing and even gardening that most of us attribute to simply being out in nature, but our theory isn’t that far off from what’s actually going on biologically—there’s actual scientific proof that being outdoors makes you a happier person. Even if you can only log fifteen minutes outside during your busy day, here’s why you should make it a priority:
Outdoor Exercise Makes You Happy
Sure, exercise is mood boosting in all its forms, but outdoor sweat sessions may be best, according to a review of studies on outdoor exercise published in Environmental Science & Technology. The studies compared indoor exercisers with outdoor ones and found a decrease in the risk of mental illness and an increase in happiness among the latter. Try swapping out the treadmill for the walking path once a week to notice a difference.
You Need the Sun
A chronic lack of sun exposure has been linked to seasonal affective disorder, fertility problems, depression and even some forms of cancer. Sunlight is your body’s preferred form of Vitamin D, so even if you pop vitamins like there’s no tomorrow, it’s crucial to get at least ten minutes of sun exposure to your hands and face daily.
You’ll Sleep Better
Our bodies perform best when we follow their natural circadian rhythms—the cycle of sunlight and darkness over the course of 24 hours (in other words, day and night). Try to wake up naturally with the sun by pulling back the curtains before bed, and spend time outside while it’s still light out. Doing so will help you produce melatonin, the hormone that controls sleep, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel awake and cheerful.
You’ll Be Friendlier
A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that just a few minutes of exposure to nature every day makes us more caring. Even something as simple as tending to an herb garden can make you more empathetic towards others, and in turn, people will love being around you.
You’ll Get an Energy Boost
Want to feel more alive? Take a hike. In 2010, the Journal of Environmental Psychology claimed that spending time in nature provides people with a greater “sense of vitality,” which includes increased energy and a heightened sense of well-being. So the next time you feel sluggish, toss the coffee and go for a walk (or at least walk to get your cup of coffee!).
You’ll Appreciate the Little Things
Scientific? Not really, but we think there’s value in saying it: Spending time outdoors will help you appreciate the beauty in life. A walk through the woods, a dip in the ocean, the view from the top of a mountain—take those memories with you when you’re in a stressful situation and use them to bring the smile back to your face.
Check out Johnie’s blog DirtbagDarling.com.