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How You Can Find Stress Relief in the Outdoors
Bliss. We all know the feeling, after suffering prolonged rain and grey skies and being imprisoned indoors. Then one day, you wake to picture-perfect blue. You invent excuses to go outside and find everyone else is doing the same. Suddenly, everyone is in a wonderful mood. There are smiles and hearty hellos to share.
The grass is greener on the other side. Looking for a sea change. There’s good reason why nature is so intertwined with feelings of positivity. Countless studies have proven that being outdoors lowers our stress levels and improves our mood. Here are just a few of the benefits of being outdoors:
Sunlight and Fresh Air
There’s no end to the benefits of feeling that warm sunlight and fresh breeze on your skin (as long as you don’t stay out too long, and remember to slap on the sunscreen!). When you’re outdoors, your body absorbs more Vitamin D and increases its levels of serotonin.
Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin – has been linked to our emotions. Those with clinical depression have frequently been found to have lower levels of Vitamin D in their bodies – and who doesn’t feel happier basking in a warm glowing sun? Soak up the sun, and with it the Vitamin D, and you’re encouraging your body to relax and de-stress.
Serotonin is a kind of mood-regulator in your body. The more you have, the better your mood. High intensity light – such as those golden rays from the sun – encourages your body to produce serotonin. And sometimes, natural light can be as effective as antidepressant medications in boosting serotonin levels. Pretty impressive, huh?
And what about fresh air? It’s common sense really. Being outdoors encourages you to breathe slower, deeper and longer. And the fresh air that you’re breathing in is purer, freer of the dust particles that accumulate in your home or office.
Studies have found that fresh air improves digestion, strengthens your immune system, cleans your lungs, improves your blood pressure and heart rate, and boosts your energy. And we all know that when you feel healthier, you feel happier.
Further studies have found that people living amid nature have lower levels of stress hormones and report being less stressed than those in the concrete jungle. Even more incredibly, it’s been proven that those very ill souls lying sick in bed but who have a window to outside need fewer painkillers than those recuperating inside a box.
It’s pretty obvious that when you’re outside, you’re likely to be more active, whether you’re tending to your garden, walking the dog, or even sunbaking between stints of swimming in the ocean.
When trying to counteract stress, there’s arguably no better place to start than with a bit of exercise. It loosens your body, helps you burn calories, reduces your risk of heart disease and combats obesity. But it also has an impact on your emotional state.
Exercise doesn’t just let you pound your stress out through rigorous activity. It also helps your body release endorphins, which reduce stress and enhance your feelings of pleasure.
The activity itself even inhibits stress hormones and improves your energy levels so you’re better equipped to handle any tough challenges thrown your way in the future.
Living in the Moment
Have you ever found yourself so caught up in your surroundings that you lose track of time, forget your pain and troubles, and want to stay outside forever? Being outdoors truly encourages you to live in the moment, and when you’re enjoying the deep rouge of a rose petal or the wisps of cloud in the sky, you instantly forget your worries.
Being amid nature helps us to switch our brains off. That’s because it engages our involuntary attention – the kind of focus that doesn’t require us to concentrate all our energies on one thing. Instead our eyes (and mind) wander from sight to sight, which can be very restorative. Indeed, it’s been said that being outdoors can put you into a kind of accidental meditative state. Imagine that, escaping your cluttered brain and those endless thoughts!
With all those stats and more, you’re probably itching to get outside. You shouldn’t ever need an excuse to enjoy the outdoors, but here are a few ways you can make the most of that sunny weather and reset your mind:
Take the yoga mat outside. If you like to do a bit of yoga, why not take it out onto your deck or lawn and enjoy the added benefit of fresh air with your deep breathing exercises.
Ditch the treadmill at the gym and hit the footpath for your runs instead
Replace the 50m Olympic swimming pool for the open ocean (it’ll save you money too!)
Get more involved in gardening
Soak up the sun with a good book
Leave the car at home and walk to work or the station (then you’ll avoid the peak-hour road rage and rock up to work more relaxed!)
What do you like to do outdoors to reduce your stress levels? We’d love to hear your ideas! If you have any, please comment in the comments section below.
Looking for more inspiration?
At Australian Outdoor Living, we really do want you to make the most of your outdoor space. Check out our other resources for more inspiration: