With the snow piling up, blistering winds hitting your face and the roads getting messier, it’s for good reason that the winter season forces indoors. The allure of an insulated home, roaring fireplace and mug of hot chocolate is hard to beat.
While the benefits of gathering together inside during these frigid months may seem appealing, there is a hefty caveat that they bring with them.
Richard Louv introduced the concept of Nature Deficit Disorder as a hypothesis in his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods. He explained that children (and human beings, generally) are spending less and less time outdoors, resulting in significant behavioral problems.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, for example, is widely recognized and more likely than not, connected quite closely to that of Nature Deficit Disorder.
For the vast extent of human history, people plowed land, explored the landscape and lived in harmony with it. Homes, industrial complexes, synthetic insulation, computers, televisions, etc. have pulled the human race further and further from the natural earth’s touch.
The life of the average human being, in turn, has transformed vastly since these changes took effect – a sedentary lifestyle and cabin fever only begin the list of negative side effects.
Several studies have been conducted and papers written describing the countless behavioral, psychological and emotional health benefits that are associated with time spent in contact with nature. Here are some of those health benefits of spending time in nature:
1. Boost in immune system – breathing in fresh air allows the body to absorb phytoncides, which have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Moreover, the exposure to sunlight while being outdoors allows our bodies to absorb the energy of the sun and convert it into vitamin D. Studies have suggested that vitamin D may have protective properties against several health ailments.
2. Advantages of Earthing – when a person is in direct contact with the earth’s surface (i.e. barefoot or wearing Earthing footwear), he/she is able to absorb the earth’s supply of free electrons. These electrons have shown to have antioxidant-like properties, coming in contact with inflammation-triggering free radicals, and helping to dispel and neutralize them.
3. Concentration may improve – spending time outdoors gives the cognitive portion of our brain a break. When attempting to focus on countless tasks throughout the course of the day, we become mentally drained. Researchers and studies have shown that, in children, an exposure to nature may help with alleviating the attention deficit symptoms and fatigue
4. Less stress and improved mood – there’s no question that the majority of the light exposure we get occurs indoors with synthetic lighting. Light exposure has been shown to elevate a person’s mood. In addition, studies have shown that “green exercise” or even just some contact with nature can help reduce blood pressure in addition to cortisol and adrenaline, two stress-related hormones.
5. A natural, healthy and serene feeling – above all else, this should be the reason to get outside. Spending even a small portion of every day gives you a “green” view on the world. It allows you to step out of your confines, breathe fresh air, ponder in solitary serenity and remain unbothered.