Warm weather has arrived!
Five benefits of being outdoors more
by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante
After what felt like an especially long winter, everyone agrees that it is wonderful to have spring and summer arrive on the prairies. Even though we live in a culture that values technology and luxury, people are still drawn to the allure of the great outdoors. In Manitoba, these next few months will give us more opportunity to take a leisurely stroll in the park, go for a hike on some trails, or have a relaxing day at the beach. Immersing ourselves in nature offers many benefits to our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. There are so many advantages to spending time outdoors whenever we can. Reconnecting with nature can enhance our overall quality of life.
1. The natural environment provides numerous opportunities for physical activity, which leads to health benefits. Try to engage in activities such as walking, jogging, cycling, or engaging in team sports. This will promote cardiovascular fitness, strengthen your muscles, and improve overall endurance. The fresh air, abundant sunlight, and vitamin D from the sun contribute to stronger bones and a boosted immune system. Additionally, outdoor activities often require different movement patterns, and this provides a more varied and holistic workout compared to indoor exercises.
Research indicates that grounding or “earthing” is a practice that can improve our health. This is when a person takes off their shoes and makes contact with the surface of the Earth for at least a few minutes. No shoes are worn when a person goes for a walk barefoot on grass, sand, or rocks. This healthy practice allows one to be more present in the moment.
Mental and emotional well-being
2. Spending time outdoors has a remarkable impact on mental and emotional well-being. Nature has a soothing effect on the mind, helping to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Exposure to natural settings stimulates the production of endorphins and serotonin, which are known as the “feel-good” hormones. The serene ambiance of natural landscapes like fields, sand and water allows us to relax, rejuvenate, and escape from the demands of everyday life.
Moreover, the outdoors offers a break from the constant stimulation of screens and technology, allowing our minds to unwind and recharge. Nature provides a space for reflection, self-discovery, and introspection. It encourages mindfulness and enables individuals to be fully present in the moment, leading to a sense of clarity and inner peace.
Cognitive development and creativity
3. Nature has a profound impact on improved brain functioning, as well as on creativity. Research suggests that exposure to natural environments enhances our attention span, improves concentration, and boosts memory. Regular outdoor activities, especially in green spaces, have been linked to improved academic performance in children and increased cognitive functioning in adults.
Furthermore, the natural world stimulates creativity and fosters imaginative thinking. The vastness and diversity of landscapes spark curiosity and inspire innovative ideas. Whether it’s exploring a dense forest, observing wildlife, or gazing at a starry night sky, nature’s wonders ignite our imagination and encourage us to think beyond the ordinary things in life.
Social connection and community
4. Being outdoors promotes social interaction and connection with others. Parks, trails, and recreational areas serve as gathering spaces, encouraging individuals, families, and communities to come together and engage in shared activities. In Manitoba, it’s great to go to a park or the beach on the weekend and see so many family and community gatherings. These occasions improve our social skills too because people are more likely to talk to each other, rather than staring at their phones or devices. Participating in outdoor sports and group adventures fosters teamwork, cooperation, and the development of communication skills. Nature provides a common ground for people from diverse backgrounds to connect, build relationships, and form lasting bonds.
5. When people are outdoors and in the present moment, we are more likely to connect with the world around us. Sometimes the beauty of nature can leave us speechless, and we get more curious about who or what created the beauty of this world. We can also contemplate how large the world is and how our time on Earth is short. There can be more focus on happiness and helping others, rather than material things.
The benefits of being outdoors are undeniable. Nature has a transformative power that enriches our lives in countless ways. Because our Manitoba summers are so short, let’s all make sure that we prioritize time outdoors as much as possible!
Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.