Your parents knew what they were talking about when they told you to go play outside.
While they probably just wanted you to burn off some energy before dinner, they were also doing your brain a favour by making it easier for you to learn. They were improving your overall health, too.
As a grown-up, responsibilities take over, and it can get more difficult to find the time to spend outside.
Here are six reasons then it’s time to reclaim some outdoor playtime.
1. Lowers the risk of depression and anxiety
Ecotherapy, ecopsychology, green therapy, earth-centered therapy, are horticultural therapy are all terms used to describe the physical and psychological healing and growth that comes with a healthy interaction with nature. Sunlight has been known to help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but studies are also showing that just a walk in nature can help with depression.
2. Helps your body heal faster
Whether you get out for a hike in the woods, or just sit and listen to the wind in the trees, spending time in nature can help to lower blood pressure and help your body heal. Researchers in hospitals have also found that patients recovering from surgery have shorter hospital stays, fewer complications and took less pain medicine if they had a room with a view of nature.
Even if you can’t get out in nature every day, try bringing nature inside by choosing indoor plants that help purify the air and give your brain some good greenery.
3. Boosts your immune system
Spending time in nature, breathing fresh air that is free of pollutants and rich in phytoncides has shown to be beneficial in a way that can help you to stay healthy. Phytoncides are chemicals plants release, that have antibacterial and antifungal benefits to help plants fight off disease and insects. By breathing in the chemicals when you spend time in nature, your body releases an increased number of a white blood cell called Natural Killer (NK) cells. They in turn focus on killing virus and tumor infected cells.
One three-day, two-night stay in nature, whether by camping or glamping, can have increased NK activity for more than 30 days. Researchers in Japan are studying the 3-day effect of spending time in nature to determine if that will also prevent certain types of cancer.
4. Increases your ability to focus
If you or your child has been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you may know that the part of the brain affected is the right prefrontal cortex. That area has also been identified as where Attention Fatigue (AF), the inability to pay attention and control impulses, is centered. A study showed that spending time in nature resulted in a reduction of symptoms associated with ADHD and AF.
Improved thought processes are also a benefit since the time spent in nature allows your brain’s command center, the prefrontal cortex, to rest. It has even been shown to reduce the risk for mental illness.
5. Gives your body a chance to rest and centre
If you spend your day on your feet or doing a lot of walking, you probably know how a long day can make your feet sore and achy. Kicking off your shoes and walking barefoot on your lawn can help to strengthen your feet by stretching the muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Your feet are also very important because they hold reflex points to every part of your body. Walking barefoot can give you a free foot massage, and every bump or pebble can hit pressure points to help stimulate the corresponding area in your body.
Additionally, if you’ve ever taken a long walk at the beach and felt more relaxed when you got home, there could be an additional reason than just spending time in nature. Water is a great conductor of electricity, and your body is made up of 60% water. The earth has a negative ion charge, and when you’re walking barefoot you are grounded to that charge. Those negative ions can help you feel calmer, detoxify your body, reduce inflammation and reset your hormonal cycles and physiological rhythms.
6. Increases serotonin levels
One of the biggest components of gardening is getting your hands dirty in the soil and feeling the connection with the earth. Guess what? That can actually ease stress and help to reduce depression. Studies indicate that the exposure to the harmless bacteria in the soil increases the release and metabolism of serotonin, much like antidepressant drugs do.
Even without a great deal of space to garden, though, creating your own “outdoors” where you can listen to birds, be surrounded by plants and even add a water feature that will mimic the sounds of a babbling brook can be beneficial.