Even though it's getting colder, there's no reason to become a couch potato. Over the years a rich body of scientific research into the benefits of being outside has shown time and again that the more often we get out of the house, the happier and healthier we become. Here are six reasons why you should put on your favorite flannel or jacket and head outside, rain, snow or shine.
Fight Seasonal Depression
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a biological condition in which your body produces depression-like symptoms as a result of decreased exposure to sunlight and low levels of vitamin D. While you can't sunbathe in 60-degree weather, the amount of light you can get even on cold, cloudy days is enough to counteract the most extreme symptoms of SAD. Make time to go on at least one short walk outside, on your lunch break, on your way home from work, or as an afterschool activity with the kids, to make sure you're getting enough sun.
Improve Your Mood
After the second, third or even fourth blizzard of the season, it's easy to see the snow and clouds as another obstacle on your way to work. But beautiful snowy scenery and the tangled skeletons of trees without their leaves can leave you with a different feeling entirely: awe. Find a way to focus on the vastness of your natural surroundings, like the infinite shapes of snowflakes or a light mist of snow on naked branches to tap into powerful feelings of awe that are sure to boost your mood.
Update Your Workout
If you are someone who works out consistently, finding ways to spend time outdoors this fall may be even easier than you think. By simply changing the setting of your exercise from an indoor facility to an outdoor setting, you can increase your physiological defenses against depression, anxiety, and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Why only work out your body when you can also shore up your emotional resilience, just in time for the family-centered holidays?
Cure Cabin Fever
Spending time in natural settings has been shown to replenish your ability to direct your attention, making it easier to ignore your roommate's annoying habits or your daughter's tenth rendition of "Let It Go." Spending time surrounded by nature will make it easier to tune out the elements of your home or office that you can't avoid and focus on the goals and projects that really matter.
Refresh Your Relationships
Nothing puts the damper on girls' night out like a temperature in the teens. Instead of fighting against the weather, try leaning into it. Grabbing a close friend, partner, or a whole group and heading outdoors can boost the benefits you'll receive just by being in a natural setting. Bring a hot thermos of tea, coffee or soup for a mid-walk pick me up and enjoy the warmth of flowing conversation.
Natural settings have such an impact on our bodies and brains that even the imitation of a natural setting is enough to improve your cognitive function. When the world around you seems barren and dormant, and the wind chill hits below zero, seek out pictures of natural settings that most inspire you and place them around your desk or nightstand for a simple improvement in your outlook.
It's not always easy to marshal the energy to put on half dozen layers and trek through the biting cold or driving snow. But with so many benefits to spending time outdoors, anyone who wants to feel better, work better, or grow in their relationships will find a short excursion in the outdoors more than worth their while.