We’re now a generation that doesn’t get in touch with nature the way our elders did. Our children spend less than an hour outside each day – prisoners get more time outside! Given the choice, they often choose to remain inside.
But there are so many great reasons to – well, y’know – just get out there! We humans have an instinctive urge to be outside. This urge even has a fancy name: biophilia.
Edward O. Wilson devised and produced his biophilia hypothesis in 1984. He defined it as ‘the urge to affiliate with other forms of life’. Or, put another way, we human beans possess something innate inside us that seeks to connect with nature and other forms of life. This article from Encyclopaedia Britannica gives more detail about the thing.
Some other cultures remain more in touch with their biophilia than perhaps we do. The Japanese indulge in a practice known as Shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’. Nothing to do with water, forest bathing is about making a point of doing what we’ve always intuitively done and known: that walking around and enjoying a natural area is calming, rejuvenating and restorative. And we don’t think there’s any arguing with that.
So here’s our top 10 reasons to get off the sofa and get out there:
1.) Improved mental ability/short term memory – it’s already a given that walking outside, promotes good mental health by improving mood and short term memory, especially in those with major depressive disorders. It helps to reduce ruminating – repeating negative thoughts – which is why a lunchtime walk can help you get through the afternoon. So, when you next need a boost get outside.
2.) Stress relief – countless studies show that being in nature is a natural stress reliever. Even seeing nature through a window helps speed recovery from surgery. How come? You have to focus on the elements, on where you’re walking, on the scenery and on your surroundings. All of which brings you away from the subject of your stress and outside into the world.
3.) Increases the number of natural cancer killing cells – with cancer being one of the biggest killers of our generation, surely this has to be a vital reason for getting outside? In July 2010, the International Union of Forest Research Organisations published an article whereby they confirmed ‘Forest visits may also strengthen our immune system by increasing the activity and the number of natural killer cells that destroy cancer cells’.
Get better creative vision?
4.) Promotes Creativity – it’s been said that one walk outdoors for 20 minutes can give you and your body the equivalent kick/wake up as a cup of coffee. However, one piece of research from the Journal of Experimental Psychology goes further and declares that walking boosts creative thinking both in real time and shortly after. Stuck for an idea? Get yer boots on!
5.) Better Vision – who saw that one coming? In children at least, research has found that outdoor activity has a protective effect on the eyes thus reducing, the risk of developing near sightedness – otherwise known as myopia. An Australian study of 2,000 children over 2 years, found a relationship between the amount of time spent outdoors and fewer instances of myopia amongst 12 year olds. The same relationship was not found with those children who spent a large amount of time playing sports indoors. Therefore the connection was about the physicality of being outside.
6.) Boosts your immune system – a study in Tokyo showed that when men partook of ‘forest bathing’, their ‘human NK activity, the number of NK cells and intracellular anti-cancer proteins in lymphocytes, increased, and lasted for more than 7 days after the trip’. Healthy adults getting outside improved their immune system.
Believe in yourself
7.) Improve Self Esteem in just 5 minutes – “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson (author). So take the time to step outside. Science backs this up. In 2010, Jo Barton and Jules Pretty (University of Essex) studied 1,252 participants using the outdoors as ‘Green Exercise’. They reported, in their Environmental Science & Technology Journal, that the greatest change in self-esteem was amongst the youngest group, with diminishing effects with age. Those with mental illness had the greatest self-esteem improvements.
8.) Urban greenery improves neighbourhood safety – A Sage Journals article first published in 2001, shows that where a neighbourhood has natural spaces, there are fewer reports of aggression, mental fatigue and decreased crime rates, in comparison to those without.
9.) Increased optimism – we’re lucky at 4 Points Leisure to have a half glass full outlook, but in today’s times that’s not always easy. However, in 2013, an article was published in The Royal Society Publishing showing that when people were exposed to nature, their future discounting (optimism) was increased, as compared to when they were shown urban environments. This conveys how people see their future and outcomes, in contrast to the outside world.
10.) It Grounds you – literally! we don’t walk barefoot enough,and we’re missing out big time by not doing so.
The Earth carries a huge negative charge that’s electron-rich and can give you a powerful supply of antioxidant and free radical busting electrons. When we connect directly with the Earth we take on these negative electrons with a constant flow, back and forth. Such is the effect that it maintains your body at the same negatively charged electrical potential as the Earth. And that’s grounding. That’s why walking along a beach barefoot feels so good. It enhance’s sleep and well being.
Nature Deficit Disorder?
We live in a world where we’ve become unconnected with nature. We have ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ a pretentious way of saying we don’t get outdoors much. Are we so out of tune with our natural world? Is that what we want for our futures? Or the future of our children? Are we happy to be ‘aliens on our own planet’ (Frank Forencich)?
I, for one, don’t think so. I think we do want to be in touch with nature. We’re simply finding it difficult to take the time to ‘meet’ up with it.
If this blog post only shows you one thing let it be that 5 minutes outside is better than nothing at all. So go on – feel the grass beneath your feet! Let us know what you think on this emotive subject.
Jo & Richard
4 Points Leisure
The Glamping, Camping and Festival Accessories shop, with years of camping experience