“The babble of the brook melded in and out of the rustling leaves creating such a calm and refreshing space, it was just fantastic.” 

Yesterday, I took my daughter for a walk in a local woodland. She is 17 months old and it was kind of a treat since everything is new for her. I particularly love the way she sniffs flowers before plucking them with a fist and sniffing at the crushed petals in her little hand. I set aside the whole afternoon for us to just go wander about in the forest. It was brilliant.

The cool pale green of the new leaf layers shifting in the breeze built up a soft continuous rustle. The 40 or so crows crafted secret caches, kept an eye on things and played with sticks and things, which held my daughter’s laser-like attention whenever they appeared. The babble of the brook melded in and out of the rustling leaves creating such a calm and refreshing space, it was just fantastic. My daughter was just enthralled, fascinated with the crows, the leaves, everything. It was pretty magical and it reminded me how much I love being outside, particularly in wild spaces.

Which brings me to the point of today’s post: go hang out outside. Whether it’s your back garden, your balcony, a city park or a little wilderness, it’s a great thing to do for yourself, and consequently everyone you deal with.

Why? What’s so special about spending time outside?

It’s where your genes expect you to be. Your genes are interacting with the environment constantly, turning on some and turning off others, starting and stopping biochemical cascades that boggle the mind. They really can and do make and break us.

Being outside you’ll feel good, for sure. The light is brighter. There are sounds and smells that in combination give your body the feedback to relax. You can downshift and get a little more creative, take the edge off. Walking, being one of the best activities known to humans, is probably how you’ll get into your local natural place, so you’ll be telling your body it’s home.

You’ll breathe better because the air is cleaner. Indoor air is more polluted than outside. Almost anywhere that’s true, maybe even in Beijing! Well, maybe not every day.

The light is more intense outside and there is a whole cascade of hormone and other biochemical processes that normalize and calm. Little changes in temperature make your skin adapt. Vitamin D is just the beginning.

We’re only recently ‘indoor animals’. We’ve been increasingly domesticating ourselves by staying inside, using conveniences to cut out work (ie. Movement) and staying up late, disregulating our circadian rhythm. Getting outside helps sort all that stuff out.

In fact, research in Japan has demonstrated that short visits to the woods, known as Shinrinyoku, reduced cortisol, markedly reduced feelings of anger, stress and anxiety, as well as creating improvements in sleep and lowered risk of CVD and improved immune function!  Not bad for a walk in the woods!

Spend an hour or more. All day if you can. Even just going once, the benefits will last for a surprisingly long time, leaving you with a deep sense of well-being and subtle creativity.  Imagine how good you’d feel if you made a habit of getting outside!

Where do you love to spend time outside?  Alone or in company?  I’d love to hear about your experiences, so drop a comment in below!