wellness4 min read

Doctor's orders: why you should get outdoors not just this Earth Day, but every day

Woman sitting on a bench in a park

WordsMegan Lambert

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Earth day is all about the preservation and protection of our health, families, and our livelihoods. And of course, planet earth. Over the last couple of years, the physical and mental health benefits of getting outdoors and reconnecting with nature have never been more apparent. That’s why earlier this month we spoke to Dr. Daniel Maughan, Medical Lead for Oxford Healthcare Improvement Centre and member of Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry, on why we should be getting outdoors not just on Earth Day, but every day.

According to Dr. Maughan, “nature helps us all by helping us to get some headspace from all the busyness of day to day life, and it's proven to be effective”. He continues;

There are multiple wins in getting outside and embracing what nature has to offer; it's free, it's good for your physical and mental health, it can help us to meet others, and it's carbon neutral.

Dr. Maughan

He suggests that “a better quality physical environment can lead to improvements in psychological well-being, social relationships, performance in school, and a reduction in anxiety and depression”. So, in case that didn’t have you convinced to peel yourself away from your desk and take yourself on a stroll, here, in a nutshell, are some of the top mental and physical benefits of getting outdoors.

Mental health benefits of getting outdoors 

Beat the blues

“The importance of interaction with the natural environment for achieving good mental health has been well recognized”, says Dr. Maughan. In fact, anxiety, depression, and a whole host of mental health issues can be reduced by spending more time outside. If you’re suffering from any of these, sometimes leaving the house can feel like the last thing you want to do, but in reality, it’s what your mind is truly crying out for. Try it out and note how you feel different before and after.

Reduce loneliness  

With more people than ever are working from home, if you live alone as well, there can be days where you feel as though you don’t talk to a single human being. According to Dr. Daniel Maughan; “direct contact with nature leads to a greater sense of connectedness to the community”. By getting outside, just for a coffee or even to volunteer at your local park, it can reduce those feelings of loneliness and create a sense of community.

Better brain function 

Time spent outdoors is also linked to higher levels of concentration, creativity, and mental clarity. Again, take yourself on a head-clearing stroll and see if you can notice the difference when you return.

Help take a time out 

Whether you’re in the office, on your laptop, or at home with the children, turn your notifications off and take a time out. Whether you’re on a walk, listening to a podcast, or watching the kids play in the park: be present.

Physical health benefits of getting outdoors 

Improved sleep

One of the key physical benefits of getting outdoors is improved sleep. Our circadian rhythms and production of melatonin are both linked to access to direct sunlight. So, if you can get yourself outdoors first thing in the morning, not only will it help wake you up but it will also help put you to sleep at night.

A boost of vitamin D

Not since the eradication of scurvy has a vitamin received such praise as Vitamin D in recent years, thanks to its immune-boosting properties. It can also help aid bone growth, and prevent heart attacks and strokes to name a few. And where does it come from? The sun, of course.

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