Have you noticed the empty playgrounds? They’re everywhere – in neighborhoods, parks, schools…beautifully landscaped play areas with tricked out swings and curvy slides sit mostly empty. When I was a kid there was always a line for the sliding board and trying to swing the highest was a big part of kid-dom. The thought of being indoors was stifling. Today our culture is very different…we’ve gone inside and we’re not coming out!
Today our kids spend half as much time outside as children did twenty years ago and every day, they spend almost 8 hours watching television, playing video games or using a computer, tablet or phone for their recreation. As for American adults, we spend 93% of our time inside a building, home or vehicle.
Most of us agree we feel better when we’ve spent time outdoors, whether it is walking the dog, riding a bike, hiking a nature preserve or tossing a ball around with our kids. Being outside feels good and for everyone who longs to be outdoors, science has got your back! Studies show that being outdoors not only feels good but is also good for the physiological and mental aspects of our brain. Our brains like being outside and are more focused, sharper and creative after being outside. In fact, 90 minutes spent outdoors has shown to improve problem-solving skills by 50%!
For anyone struggling with addiction, striving for recovery or learning to overcome a co-dependent relationship, it can be easy to isolate, curl up, shut down and shut out. Yet one of the best things we can do when we are immersed in those feelings is to take our brain for a walk. Even a short stint walking through the woods or a nature preserve can make a healthy difference.
What Science Tells Us and What We Inherently Know
We say:Nature sounds good and we are more attuned to sounds of wildlife…we are more focused.
We say:Being outside can be like a mini-vacation, away from distractions and stressors…we feel more relaxed and we usually sleep better.
We say:Nature smells good and the difference scents of grass, fields, earth, blossoms, etc., awaken us in a way that isn’t possible indoors.
We say:Walking or hiking on trails, noticing the vein patterns on a leaf or a tiny flower in bloom, enrichens us and helps us to appreciate the world outside our immediate bubble. We discover rocks shaped like hearts, old arrowheads and sticks shaped like lizards. We feel happy, we’re naturally absorbing Vitamin D.
We say:Modern multi-tasking is not conducive to the creative process. When we are free to roam, explore and discover the great outdoors our brain rewards us with fresh ideas and new ways of thinking. We feel revived.
It’s not always easy to spend time outdoors. We get hot, we get cold, we get bit by bugs and stung by bees. We scrape our knees, trip over tree roots and get sunburned. Yet our brains need the fresh air and time to rejuvenate. In the past twenty years, our society has packed up its toys and gone inside. It’s time to come back out to play.
Take your brain out for a walk and feel the difference!
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences