Why I Love Spending Time Outdoors with Push Doctor
This is a paid partnership with Push Doctor but all words, images and opinions are my own.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I love being outdoors. Even in winter, I feel cooped up when I've spent too much time inside, perhaps because I suffer from slight claustrophobia. I hate being in confined spaces and cannot tolerate being underground; wide open spaces make me feel like I can breath with more ease.
I've often thought that this was just obvious, that everyone loved to be outdoors to feel wild and free. After all, what better feeling is there than the sun warming your skin or a light breeze tickling your face? It always shocks me when I meet someone who hates the outdoors and would rather spend their time indoors. If not for the love of embracing open spaces, then surely the beauty of nature and dramatic landscapes would tempt you outside?
The idea that fresh air is good for you isn't anything new; it's something that my parents drilled into me from a young age and most people will have been encouraged to step outdoors 'because it's good for you' at some point in their lives. What I didn't know was that this actually has a name and is scientifically proven to be beneficial to your health.
Ecotherapy is the practice of spending time in nature to improve your physical and psychological well-being, whether that involves strenous exercise or simply sitting in a park, watching the world go by. Even a short stroll around an urban park can improve your health. The most obvious health benefits of spending time outdoors are physical. Everyone knows that participating in some form of exercise, especially if you raise your heart rate, is good for you. Running around a park, cycling to work or playing a sport such as football all keep you active and improve your overall fitness. What many people don't know, is that being active is just the tip of the iceberg. Spending time outdoors has so many other benefits that once you've finished reading this, you'll (hopefully) rush straight outside, whatever the weather.
Not only can immersing yourself in nature help you to improve your physical health, but it's also been proven to boost mental health. Being outside triggers serotonin, also known as the 'happy hormone', which can help you to feel more positive and also help with issues such as stress and anxiety. When I'm feeling overwhelmed with how much work I have to do, or if I'm feeling a little unhappy, I always take my dog for a walk and allow myself to zone out, lost in my own thoughts while admiring my surroundings. It always helps; removing yourself from the source of any stress is the best way to combat it and, for me, stress simply does not exist outside!
This also works as a way to boost creativity or concentration. I occasionally get stuck with writers block and always head outdoors to try to clear my head and allow creative thoughts to creep into my mind. I find being surrounded by nature a much more inspiring place that being surrounded with walls. When you break down the physical walls and step outdoors, the mental walls in your mind begin to dissipate.
Then there is that good old fresh air that everyone is always talking about. Did you know that the air inside your home is actually polluted? All the fumes from cleaning products, mold from damp walls, gases such as radon, the actual materials used in the building and dry, stale air is actually bad for you. That's why it'd good to open windows and let fresh air circulate around your home. Even better, actually step outside, take a deep breath and inhale lungfuls of clean air.
Obviously, the quality of air is different all around the world and most large cities are heavily polluted. If you live in a city, try to escape to a large park or get out to the countryside to inhale clean air as often as possible. You'll immediately notice the difference. The purest air I've ever inhaled was in Iceland, two years ago. I remember standing outside and inhaling, noticing the difference in the air quality. I definitely felt healthier and revitalised when we returned from that trip.
With all of these benefits and more, surely you're tempted to head straight outdoors? Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to know what to do outdoors. You may live in the middle of a bustling city or hate physical sports, but don't let this stop you from soaking up the benefits of immersing yourself in nature. Take inspiration from around the world for different ways that you can connect with the outdoors.
Japanese forest bathing
I love reading about customs and cultural practices from around the world, hearing about the benefits of living your life in a certain way that we simply don't yet understand in the U.K. Japanese forest bathing has fascinated me for years - it's been proven to lower your blood pressure, reduce stress, boost the immune system and improve your general well-being, yet somehow is barely known outside of Japan. It's not difficult; all you have to do is go to a forest, walk slowly and breath deeply. Known as shinrin-yoku, this is actually recommended by medical professionals in Japan, as it is widely accepted that simply being surrounded by nature and walking at a relaxed pace can help with everything from ADHD to insomnia.
If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know that I'm a keen advocate of this Norwegian concept. Roughly translating as 'free air life', frilufsliv is basically a way of life in Norway. Residents spend as much time as possible outdoors, in every season, connecting with nature and enjoying the fresh air. Even in winter with plummeting temperatures and short days, everyone bundles up in weather-appropriate clothing and spends their evenings cross-country skiing on floodlit forest paths. Weekends are spent outdoors, usually travelling to cabins in the wilderness, hiking in summer or participating in winter sports during the colder months. Take inspiration from the Norwegians (and the rest of the Nordic countries, this isn't exclusive to Norway) and get outdoors whenever you can, even if its just to walk to work or eat your lunch in a park.
The concept of Volta is popular in most Mediterranean countries, perhaps thanks to their balmy temperatures. The word originates from Modern Greek but the French, Spanish and Italians all have their owns interpretations. Similar to the English phrase 'let's stretch our legs', Volta basically means going for an evening promenade, walking around the streets during and after sunset. In England, we tend to retreat indoors at this time to curl up on the sofa and watch Netflix, while our European peers are walking around in the fresh air. Yes, shops are open later and temperatures are warmer, but there's no reason why we can't do the same. Walk to the pub rather than getting an Uber, take your dog for an evening stroll, go for a walk around your town or village and appreciate how much quieter it is in the evening, or even head out to the countryside after you have eaten to enjoy a peaceful walk.