Lexi Louis – Opinion Columnist
I think that spending time outdoors regularly is a great thing. It provides time away from situations we may find distressing. Going for a walk outside has plenty of benefits like improved mood, improved physical health, reduced stress, reduced anxiety, and improved memory. It’s great to spend time outdoors because of these benefits.
When we get stuck in a loop of negative thoughts, our mood is worsened. It is important to take a break. Taking a break outdoors is a great way to lessen a loop of negative thoughts. Sometimes certain environments can stimulate anxiety, and sometimes certain environments can reduce anxiety.
The quietness of the outdoors, the nature sounds, and the greenery provide a distraction from negative thoughts. Our surroundings can play a big role in how we feel. Making a strong effort to put ourselves in a comfortable situation when we need it is imperative. If we are in surroundings a lot we find anxiety inducing, staying in them can lead to negative outcomes.
When I go for a walk with family or friends, I immediately feel the positive effects. The nature, the wildlife, the exercise, and getting to chat are some of the aspects that lead to the positive benefits. I recently went for a walk, and I was surprised to see six deer cross the path. On this walk, I also got a little bit of sunlight. Sunlight can release Serotonin and it can induce Vitamin D production. Serotonin helps with nausea, upsetting foods, and sleep. Gustavus has many outdoor trails and areas for walking outside. I enjoy going for walks in the Arboretum, and this is a great way for spending time outside too.
When we have time for ourselves to reflect, it makes sense how going for a walk outdoors improves memory. Without provoking situations, we remember things easier. It is imperative to be relaxed so our thoughts are clearer and we can remember them. Our five senses of sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch, can relax us.
If we see a beautiful landscape or sunset, we may feel calmer. A nice aroma makes us direct our thoughts elsewhere. Nature sounds or music provide another distraction from anxiety inducing situations. Stress balls or a plush pillow to squeeze utilize our muscles for distracting ourselves. Another nice thing we can do for ourselves is eating something we enjoy.
A way to increase the benefits of being outdoors is grounding. Grounding is electrically connecting yourself to the energy of the earth. It is a practice that can help with flashbacks, PTSD, and negative emotions. Grounding can improve sleep and reduce pain. Some strategies for connecting with the earth are walking barefoot outside or putting your hands in water.
Grounding also uses the five senses to help with distress. This can be breathing deeply, doing math or counting, describing what is around you, focusing on others, picturing someone you love, or practicing self kindness. Writing or saying aloud, “You are trying your best, you can do this,” is a great way to help to change a negative thought pattern.
The cognitive triangle shows how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by each other and an event. Cognitive behavior therapy is a way to identify negative thoughts, change their pattern, and to learn better ways to perceive an event or cope with one. Going for a walk outside gives us time to reflect on negative thoughts and change them.
Some may say that it is easier to exercise or distract yourself indoors. Although there are benefits to being indoors, there are not as many benefits as spending time outdoors. A great alternative for getting the same benefits of being outside is playing nature sounds inside. Because the sounds are similar to the outdoors, we can think we are in a different environment. These sounds can be relaxing. Some of these sounds may be rainfall, ocean waves, or birds.
Some may say the effort of taking time to go outside isn’t worth it. Although going for a walk outside takes time, it provides many benefits. Going for a twenty to thirty minute walk three days a week is enough to experience the benefits of it. The physical and mental benefits of spending time outdoors is worth it.
Being outdoors is a great thing. With all of its positive benefits and potentials, it should be done regularly. People would have time to use their five senses to improve their overall health, and they would have the opportunity to reflect and change negative thought patterns. We have the opportunity to exercise CBT if we need to. Sunlight is an additional benefit to spending time outside. It releases serotonin and induces Vitamin D production in the body. We may also get a little exercise while we are walking. Because of all of these positive aspects, going for a walk outdoors is a wonderful thing to do.