Who hasn’t gotten lectured by a parent or grandparent bemoaning your behavior? “No one goes outside anymore, it’s those darn phones, everyone is addicted to social media…” It can be frustrating to listen to, but there is some truth to it. According to the EPA the average American spends 93% of their life indoors.
With busy schedules, it can be hard to work in some time outside, but the rewards can be huge, especially when contrasted with the costs of an indoor lifestyle. It’s been shown that spending too much time inside increases the likelihood of getting sick due to the higher concentration of airborne pollutants. Too little time spent in natural light also throws off the internal clock, making it difficult to fall and stay asleep.
Getting outside increases natural serotonin levels which is good for relieving stress, helping you sleep, and generally increasing your happiness. Going outside for even fifteen minutes is immediately correlated with a lower resting heart rate, and a reduction of cortisol (a stress hormone) in the bloodstream. Taking a short walk won’t cure depression, but it can make a difficult week a little more manageable.
Here are five easy outdoors activities to work into a busy schedule.
1. Take your work outside
Going outside doesn’t have to mean avoiding responsibilities. In fact, I’m writing this on my deck. If your home or workplace doesn’t have easy access to an outdoor workspace, don’t worry, there are other options. Plenty of cafés have patios that are perfect for a working lunch.
Switching up your workspace is also good for creativity, productivity, and mood. Just make sure not to go somewhere too distracting; it’s hard to finish a report if you’re busy instagramming your Triple venti soy no foam latte.
2. Go for a walk
If you can take an afternoon off, I’d recommend unplugging for a few hours. Take a hike. Enjoy mother nature. There aren’t too many places where an hour’s drive won’t put you somewhere beautiful to walk around. Parks work well too, if you’re short on time (or just don’t want to drive).
If you’re really pressed for time, a stroll around the block is just as good. Remember, the goal is to soak up some sun, but if it’s stressing you out, it’s counterproductive. Do what works with your schedule and remember a little of something is better than nothing.
3. Have a picnic
Everyone eats. Why not do it outside? There are a million easy-to-make recipes perfect for lunch in the nearest park. If you work from home, the backyard is a great substitute. Eating outside can be a great excuse to get a group of friends together - backyard barbeques, late-night bonfires, and afternoon picnics can all be turned into small parties with minimal effort.
Personally, I’ve taken to eating breakfast on my patio. There’s new research showing that going outside for a while right after you wake up will improve your energy levels for the rest of the day and help to reset your internal clock.
If you’re looking for an outdoor activity that involves slightly less physical exertion, outdoor festivals and concerts might just be right for you. There are festivals celebrating everything from bacon to chainsaws, and farmers markets are a great place to pick up local, organic produce. It’s all a matter of doing a little online research and finding something nearby that interests you.
Concerts are another great way to get outside. Small outdoor venues are usually less expensive and can help you get acquainted with local artists or music that’s a little outside of your comfort zone. There are also plenty of well-established amphitheaters where you can catch your favorites (if you’re willing to foot the bill). Music is also proven to keep your brain young. Think of it as a mind workout.
Hammocking is rising in popularity with college students. It works well in combination with any of the other items on the list. They’re a good spot for a nap or just to relax and listen to some music. These hammocks are lightweight, easy to set up, and reward you with a comfy place to rest. All you need is a starter hammock (which you can purchase online for around twenty dollars) and two trees.
However it works best for you, find a way to get some fresh air. Your body and mind will thank you.By Kate Marin | @ikate186