I think everyone can benefit from getting outdoors a little more, so this week I’m doing exactly that.
I’m hiding away on Hog Island in Maine for a nature writing retreat. As I go into this week with a blank notebook, a pen, and an open-mind, I’m already beginning to think of all the benefits that time in nature has brought to me.
Classical writers, naturalists, poets, and artists alike have been known to venture to the great outdoors to seek inspiration, as I’ll be doing this week. Something about the separation that we create between ourselves and the modern world while we spend time in nature eases the pressures that we feel when creating in our routine environments. We feel as if time is no longer of the essence, we’re often in awe of the outdoors, and we can take in the newness of our surroundings. Altogether, this is the perfect creativity cocktail.
As we go into the great outdoors to seek that inspiration that I mentioned above, we also allow ourselves a chance to reconnect. With more and more time in nature, we get re-inspired to make a difference, making those who spend time outdoors generally more aware not just of the issues facing an environment, but of how our personal, day to day actions can effect that environment. We tend to care more when we experience just how wonderfully beautiful the natural world can be.
Spending time in nature allows for quiet reflection. Removed, even just for a moment, from the hustle and bustle of everyday we are allowed a moment to breathe. In this moment, we often take stock of our goals, short and long term, our direction, our relationships. There is hardly a better time to ponder life than when we are able to step away from it temporarily and look from afar. And what better place to do so than in nature.
Being outdoors ignites your senses. For me, the experience of sight, sounds, and smells all feel heightened. The chirp of the birds is sharper, the rustling of wildflowers and tall grass a symphony. Sometimes, in the right place at the right time, one can experience true silence in nature. Not only that, but the colors of the natural world appear more vivid. Our eyes take in the deep reds and startling sharp blues of a variety of birds, the fresh leaf green of a luna moth, and the bright pop of colors provided by wildflowers so vibrant it’s almost as if we’re seeing these colors for the first time. And that’s not to mention the smells that fill that the nostrils outdoors. Experiencing sensory stimulation such as these can both strengthen memory and reduce anxiety.
As our world becomes increasingly modern, more and more evidence shows that there are actual health benefits to spending time outside. This includes natural mood boosters, such as exposure to vitamin D from the sun and outdoor endorphins that decrease stress and increase mood, energy, and happiness.
If you live in a big city and don’t think you can find these same natural benefits nearby, think again! Even spending as little as 20 minutes in a local park can reap these same rewards.