The other day I was eating lunch with a friend at Panera Bread right across the street from a lot of beautiful old oak trees. Not a big green belt or anything, just a lot that hadn’t been developed yet. I kept staring at it from the window and my friend remarked, “You know they’re taking out that big lot of trees right? They’re going to develop it into an apartment complex.” My heart sank. Why? We’re surrounded by three shopping centers, why do they need to take out the only little spot of nature left over here?
You know, I think–and this could be a long shot here–if the people in charge of those plans spent more time in nature they might reconsider taking out the 10 remaining trees on an area of overdeveloped land. Just a couple of hours a week sitting and enjoying the quiet, the clean air, soil beneath their feet, could make all the difference. Just saying.
I recently took up a Sunday afternoon hiking ritual with my boyfriend and despite our constant comparisons between video game environments and actual nature, we’ve started to notice some pretty nice benefits to actually spending some time outside.
So, if you’re in the need of a reason, or a few, to get back in touch with nature…here are 5.
1. Vitamin D
Doctors and nutritionists always tell you to take your vitamins. Well here’s one you can knock off the list just by standing outside. There’s a lot of hype and controversy about the benefits of Vitamin D, but if you only want to stick to the facts, the Mayo Clinic will tell you that Vitamin D helps to “maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus” and “[aid] in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones.” In addition, “research also suggests that vitamin D may provide protection from osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer, and several autoimmune diseases.” So bottom line…it’s not doing any harm. But remember, you only need about 10 mins of direct sunlight to get a good daily dose of Vitamin D. If you’ll be out for an extended period of time–wear sunscreen.
2. Step Away from the Screen, your eyes will thank you.
If you’re anything like me, there’s some sort of screen on and glowing nearby just about every hour of the day. I work on a computer, and go home and relax over television and video games. I’ve even gone over to the e-book dark side and now read on a screen as well. But if you go outside (and decidedly leave your phone stashed) you get a good hearty break from the screen. This has a number of benefits. First of all, your eyes can relax. Eye strain is extremely common among heavy computer users. Go take a walk on your smoke break, go drink a cup of tea in the backyard instead of flipping on the TV after dinner. Like I said, your eyes will thank you.
3. De-stress, Re-center
There’s been a barrage of articles recently about how people are overstimulated, constantly multi-tasking and more stressed than ever. As technology makes tasks easier and we move closer and closer to a 24 hour society people are expected to do more and more with their day, and by more I don’t mean more twiddling of thumbs or shooting the breeze. People are overworked. Well, this article in the Huffington Post tested the effects of nature during and outside of work, and not surprisingly not only did nature help to relax test subjects after being exposed to stressful situations but it actually improved their cognitive function. More interestingly, they even tested if exposing people to a high-definition view of nature (as in on TV) had the same effect. Nope. The real thing is the only one that worked.
4. Staying Grounded
Here’s where I’m going to go New Age on you. A medium once told me that one of my biggest problems was staying grounded. I spend so much time worrying about the things that had happened, what’s about to happen, what I need to, and what I could have done better that I lose touch with the present and the important things in it like my body, my intuition and my spiritual well-being. People get out of touch with nature but they also get out of touch with themselves. After I took up hiking on the weekends I started to notice that I could hear myself again, if that makes any sense. I was out there just enjoying the trees, feeling the energy around me, and you’d be surprise how little you have to try to hear yourself think when there’s no other noise around you. Enjoy a natural moment of just being present.
5. Nature is pretty much vital to our existence.
This goes back to the first statement. I know some people just DON’T like nature or being in it. But, even if that’s true, we kind of have to consume nature to live. (Not kind of, we just straight up do.) There’s not a lot of nutrients in artificial or processed foods, you’ve got to have the nature kind if you plan on living a healthy life. Trees provide oxygen. Nature provides shelter to animal life that we in turn eat or use for materials. And, if you’re a believer in global warming, well, enough said. I know we’re in the tech-age where just about anything can be done on a computer or made in a factory but there are some things you just can’t deny or replace. So if you won’t go outside, at least go eat a salad, or even a steak, and take a sec to appreciate that nature made ‘em possible.