The Importance of Spending Time Outdoors No Matter the Season

 bicycle-1209682_640Studies have shown that spending time outdoors, even just a trip to the backyard or city park, provides a range of health and psychological benefits. Spending time is the natural antidote to everyday stress – and research shows our time in nature can reduce stress and aggression and increase creativity and empathy. A key component of our work with students at Green Ivy involves a program of overall wellness, from diet and exercise to limiting social media. We encourage our students to get outside when they can (preferably without their phones) even for a few minutes at a time, as short breaks of this kind can be crucial for effective stress management and ultimately, academic performance.

However, one recent survey found that only 10% of teenagers spend time outside everyday, which means

woman-1209866_640most are missing out on a simple and critical method of stress reduction. With the flurry of activities and scheduling changes that happen every fall, we wanted encourage teens and parents to find ways to spend a few extra minutes outdoor activities during the school year. We’ve focused on a few of the benefits below, and hope they will inspire you and your family to make time for the outdoors in the coming months.

Decreased stress, increased happiness. Walking in forests has been shown to lower heart rates, and participants report better moods and less anxiety than those strolling in urban settings. Researchers have also concluded that there is something about being in nature that contributes to stress reduction and relaxation beyond what exercise alone can produce. Incredibly, when people simply view photos of nature scenes, they have a boost in positive perspective and are more open and trusting of those around them.

Improved focboy-477013_640us and creativity. At Green Ivy, we advocate that students designate a time each day to unplug from their devices, which allows for a much needed digital detox. Being outside provides the same kind of relief from the bombardment of technology, and it has been shown to increase concentration skills. In fact, a recent study comparing kids who spent time in green, outdoor spaces with those doing the exact same activities in indoor spaces, revealed that those active outside reported fewer symptoms of ADHD. This kind of attention restoration can also lead individuals to be more open to creative ideas and problem solving.

Increased kindness to others and to ourselves. In a recent study, Korean researchers reviewed MRIs of people looking at a range of urban and rural scenes. When viewing the urban scenes, there was an increased amount of blood flow to the part of the brain that processes fear and anxiety, but when looking at the natural world, the areas that lit up were those associated with empathy and altruism. And if that weren’t proof enough of the benefits spending time outdoors, nature walkers, but not city walkers, showed decreased activity in a part of the brain tied to depressive rumination—and reported being gentler on themselves. Overall, it appears that being outside in a pleasant environment allows us to get outside of ourselves in the best ways possible.
What can you do to encourage a dose of daily outdoor happiness with your kids?