It seems that life has become very complicated. With work, technology, children’s schedules, socializing, maintaining our overall health, and taking care of elders, just to name a few, the layers of complication can really add up. A lot of what I hear people talk about is feeling tired from having too much to do, mostly things they don’t actually want to be doing but feel they have to do because of the lifestyle choices they’ve made. It can be hard to reverse course once a path has been carved out. In the past I’ve written about making a commitment to the responsibility of doing what is right for you, really committing to the obligation to live a fulfilling life doing things you enjoy, not only things you have to do. If you say you want to be healthier, follow through with the steps it takes to become healthier. If you want to keep in touch with loved ones who live far away, make it a point to actually do what it takes to stay in touch.
Today I want to talk about obligation to and follow through on this life balance, but in a specific way. Because we’re all so busy with things we’re obligated to do, we must also be obligated to simplify in order to find balance. Complicated in this corner, simple over in that corner.
We as humans, who used to be physically active for most of our day, now have reversed that course and spend the vast majority of our time indoors, sitting or lying down. As I sit here right now writing this, I myself have been inside, whether it be my home, car, or inside at work, for about 98% of my day so far. The rest of today will consist of being inside my office until late into the evening where I will then drive home inside my car to go home to be inside my house for the rest of the night. This is my day, like so many of us, for weeks and weeks at a time.
Researchers estimate that adults who spend as little as two hours per week outside in nature experience significant health benefits, including benefits to blood pressure, anxiety and depression, as well as cognitive abilities like improved memory, and decision making abilities. Read this blog for 12 reasons why going outside is good for your health. That being said, it is recommended that children spend at least three hours per day outside, at the least. There are several reasons why being outside is important for children, including developing creativity, increased physical and mental health, as well as boosts in self-confidence and connection to and care for the natural world. There are many many many blogs already written which discuss this further, check these out for just a couple of examples, here and here. These blogs also provide links to studies which have been conducted showing the research behind why being in nature helps our entire system as a whole person, mental health, physical health, and emotional health.
I know what you’re thinking. But Laura, you already know that I have way too much to keep up with, with work, technology, my children’s schedules, socializing, maintaining my health, and caring for elders, and now you’re asking me to do another thing. Yes, I’m asking you to do another thing. But that’s where balance comes in. Sometimes we have to take stressful things out to add calming things in, in order to be happier and healthier. That is what I mean by balance, complicated over here, simpler over there. We say we want to be happier, healthier, have less chaos in our lives, find stability in our emotional health, have better connections with our family and friends. The research is clear on what helps and what keeps us in cycles of unhealth in regards to being outside in nature. I’m not saying it’s easy, but as I have discussed (read my previous blog on self-discipline), we owe it to ourselves and those around us to actually take the steps necessary, to be disciplined, in caring for ourselves. Another unsettling statistic from research says that fifty percent of Americans do not take an annual vacation. There is a lot that goes into that statistic that I won’t get into here. But the underlying sentiment is, we need to get out into nature more, whether it be in the mountains, on a hiking trail, at the beach, on a walking path, or sitting in a local park. And not just during vacation, but on a regular and consistent basis, for the good of our health.
Over the last few years I have come across more and more blogs talking about doctors prescribing nature to their patients for the treatment of illnesses. I read those headlines and think, yes, I do also “prescribe” nature to some of my clients but rarely does anyone follow through with it. There has been backlash on the pharmaceutical approach as being the best and sometimes only way to treat illnesses, particularly mental illness, and for good reason. We now have to think outside the box we have been taught to think inside of. It is not new news that being outside in nature helps us in how we feel both mentally and physically. But it is new in that our society has come to the point of devaluing the natural world and the connection our human bodies have to the natural world. We must reattach to the notion that nature is vital to our survival, both on a micro and macro level.
As it’s been stated, two hours per week for adults is something we should all strive for. And this is a situation where more is better. This is the time of year when temperatures begin to feel more comfortable, the fall foliage is beautiful to look at, and many opportunities for being outside on a trail or walking path are available. Winter doesn’t have to be an end to outside time. Being outside in safe temperatures during the winter is very good for our bodies, too. Let’s make a commitment to get outside more, for the good of our health. Happy Fall, Y’all!