Ever wonder how you can improve your life? More and more the solution seems to point to one very easy and obvious solution”¦ get outdoors more. Yes, mother was right. Her answer to every problem was: “Go play outside.” Even though she probably just wanted my sister and I to take our bickering away from her, in retrospect, there was profound wisdom in her words.
When was the last time you were taking a walk in the forest and thought to yourself, “Gee, I wish I were in the office”? Unless the forest is on fire, or it is pouring buckets of rain, the answer is, likely, never.
Being outdoors, literally and figuratively, grounds us. Looking at the leaves on the trees, hearing the birds chirp, feeling the sun on face, all help to melt the problems of the day. Even if you’ve started your walk in a bad mood, spending enough time outdoors will turn that frown upside down (or at least to a neutral position).
Some of the challenges facing the world today include global warming (or the denial of it), and epidemics in depression, and a violent consumerism and entitlement movement. Add in childhood (and adult) obesity and you wonder where we went off the tracks. Many of these can be solved by getting outside.
If more people were more in tune with their green spaces, there would be less (or no) dumping of chemical waste”¦ because everyone would say: “Not in my backyard.” Unfortunately, we have become territorial about our houses, but not our bigger “backyards.” If more people were aware of their environment, they might see what’s happening because of climate change. Maybe then we’d see more recycling, and a willingness to pay more to buy local on the small scale, and less abuses to the environment by corporations on a larger scale.
Like Aldo Leopold said: “We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” We become part of the community of nature only by spending time in it.
Spending more time hiking, cycling, gardening, swimming, climbing, reminds us of the importance of fresh air, clean water, and uncontaminated soil. If you’re close to nature, you can’t ignore what’s happening to it.
If you fight depression, or are in a bad mood, you also know that spending time outdoors helps, especially if you make it an active foray into nature. While it can be hard to will yourself out the door at times, once there, the healing powers of vitamin D from the sun, and from getting exercise cannot be underestimated. Spending twenty minutes outdoors exercising has a profound impact on your wellbeing.
Another reason people get down is feeling isolated. Being in nature helps us feel part of something. Getting outside with friends and family further allows up to catch up and connect. From gardening to geocaching, from bicycling to bocce, kayaking to kitesurfing, getting outside works wonders.
Being in nature also exposes us to true beauty. Focusing on one leaf, or tree, or the whole forest, we are reminded that even in a world where there is so much crazy and evil, there is also so much beauty, and so much good.
Another side benefit of being outside is that we aren’t shopping. Consumerism is rampant. Every day is Christmas. We want something, we buy it. Our great grandparents would be horrified to see all of the stuff we’ve acquired, and what it has done to the planet. They’d tell us that we aren’t entitled to all of “this” and that we should live lighter, cleaner, truer. What would they say of all of the time we spend in front of screens?
The newspapers report about children spending as much time in front of screens as their parents spend at work. How can it have come to this? Why aren’t we saying to our children: “Go play outside”?
We’ve put too much value on televisions, laptops, tablets, smart phones, and the “information” coming out of them. The only screen we should be focussed on is the screen door; and using it to get outside!