This has been my first spring in Charlottesville, and I have been so delighted by the beautiful weather these past few days! It’s been that temperature that’s just perfect for enjoying the outdoors and not sweating and getting mauled by mosquitos. We’re also getting to that point in the semester right before people start hitting the books hard, in an effort finish strong or save the semester. It’s easy to get swept up in the stress and stay in the library for hours on end, so this one is a reminder for all you busy bees out there as to why taking nature-filled study breaks are good for you!
1. It improves brain function
There have been many studies on the impact of nature and time spent outdoors on concentration in children with ADHD. A national study by the NIH revealed a connection between children who played outside after school and on weekends and fewer reported symptoms of ADHD, by comparing outdoorsy children to those who spent most of their time indoors. Another study showed that creativity can be increased by walking around and is additionally boosted if the walking around takes place outdoors.
2. It gets you your Vitamin D
Vitamin D is something you don’t necessarily need to get from your diet. Your body synthesizes it naturally, but it requires sunlight to get the process started. Studies suggest that Vitamin D may actually have disease-fighting powers, protecting against a wide variety of diseases from osteoporosis to cancer to heart attack and stroke. Spending some time outdoors on a sunny day would be a fantastic and fun way to boost your health! **Big disclaimer though: you should only spend roughly 1/3 of the time it takes for you to get a mild sunburn out in the sun without sunscreen on. For people with fair skin, this means 10-15 minutes is sufficient; any more could put you at risk for skin cancer. Unfortunately, the time you spend in the sun with sunscreen on does not count toward getting your Vitamin D, because sunscreen is so effective in blocking UVB rays (the same stuff that stimulates Vitamin D production).
3. It improves mental health
Numerous studies have been done that show a strong correlation between exposure to nature/fresh air and reduced depression, stress, and anxiety levels. It isn’t widely understood exactly why this relationship exists, but one theory is that the exposure to light plays a big role. Seasonal affective disorder, which causes levels of depression and anxiety to increase due to fewer daylight hours, is an actual problem that has been studied, and it is treated with light boxes (literally light coming out of a box). So if you have a desk job, or if you just spend a lot of time indoors, you could potentially improve your mood significantly just by taking a walk outside and breathing the fresh air.
Too “busy” to go outside?
Get a small, potted plant for your workspace! According to a study by Kansas State University, surgical patients in rooms with plants reported less anxiety and fatigue and were released from the hospital sooner than patients in rooms without plants. Another study by the Agricultural University of Norway found that rates of sickness were more than 60% lower in workplaces with plants, compared to those without plants.
Now, go forth, and become one with nature. Head outside and get your daily fix of happiness and health! 🙂