Anyone outside as you read this? Maybe wish you were?
Wanting to be outside is human instinct. Looking out the window, I get an emotional itch to break out and be in the open again. I am never so much at home as when I am outdoors.
I grew up having many positive experiences with nature from camping in Aurora, IL on the Fox River to visiting Yosemite and Denali National Parks. I am excited to join NIU Outdoor Adventures as it gives me the opportunity to teach and show students about the many different benefits that nature can provide.
Research continues to show there are rich and measurable benefits to being in nature.
Do you like being outside just to be outdoors? What is your favorite outdoor activity?
Some of us are hikers, some hunters, some love to camp. And some sit on the beach. A few are tree climbers (I love climbing trees with my son) and a few are mountain climbers. Some love nothing more than the chance to photograph the perfect sunset or the local wildlife. We are runners, walkers, kayakers, and playground enthusiasts (me again, I’m pretty sure I’m a 12-year-old in a 33-year old’s body). Many of us head outdoors for adventure while others prefer to lose themselves quietly watching a creek trickle by.
We each follow different passions but feed the same instinct.
We know how we feel during (and after) these encounters, but the feeling is impossible to explain to someone who has yet to experience it. We might feel calm, exhilarated, strengthened, rebooted, and at peace. The effects are more than emotional. If I had to describe it, I would say it is a bio/psycho/social/spiritual restoration.
Nature is part of a growing attention to therapeutic lifestyle practices that focus on habits that have proven health benefits.
In fact, physicians across the globe are partnering with national, state, or local park organizations to encourage their patients to use the opportunity for physical activity and immersion in nature to better their health.
All forms of evidence from the anecdotal to biochemical research support the claim that nature is good for our health.
On the physical side, time in nature is associated with a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and sympathetic nerve activity. When we spend time outside, there is a dramatic increase of natural killer cells to fight off infection and cancer growth. Evidence also suggests exercising outdoors in green space enhances the gains of each workout.
Subjects in studies who experienced physical activity outdoors reported greater revitalization, increased energy, and more positive engagement along with less depression, anger, confusion, and tension in comparison with indoor workouts.
There are many mental benefits including overall reduction in stress and helping us to focus more efficiently. There is also an opportunity to experience deep joy and connectedness.
We really should drop everything right now and spend more time outside to reap these great benefits!
All of us can benefit from the open space that nature offers to re-envision ourselves. Outside the routine of daily life, we can discover what is most essential in ourselves and others.
We can let go of everything but wild awareness and release any pain or heaviness we have been carrying. Not inhibited by physical and emotional distractions, we can be more present for our friends and family.
There’s both physical and emotional power in returning to an essential part of ourselves…nature.
In nature, we find harmony, a bio-psycho-social synchronization that directed humans from hunting the plains of Africa to conquering technology in Silicon Valley and everything in between. It is the origin for a unique, dependable path to healing and wellness.