When your job involves a lot of time at the keyboard, it’s all too easy to hole up indoors and never leave.
Well, okay, most of us at least venture out for groceries or coffee every so often, but the point stands—we spend a lot of time indoors.
That’s not necessarily the best thing for our creativity, though.
A whole slew of scientific studies have shown that we get a huge boost to our energy, productivity, and creativity by getting back to nature and spending some time in the great outdoors.
Here’s 11 ways getting outside, even just for a few minutes, will help you focus, be more creative, and live your best life.
1. You’ll Have More Energy
When we’re exhausted, drained, and feel like we can’t carry on with our day, most of us reach for a cup of coffee, tea, soda, or other caffeine-loaded booster.
But what if you could give yourself a jolt of energy without any of that?
Taking a quick walk outside may just do the trick!
Studies have shown that a brief 20-minute walk outside can give you all of the benefits of a cup of coffee—and more besides.
Even imagining being in nature for 20 minutes helped perk up participants in the study, but actually walking outdoors gave them the biggest boost of energy.
2. You’ll Focus Better
Ever get that feeling of brain fog, where you just can’t focus and it seems like putting a single word on the page is too much to even contemplate?
Stepping outside for a breath of fresh air might be all the help you need to beat it!
If you find your brain flitting around like a hummingbird on speed, find a park or other natural space where you can take a brief walk or even just sit for a few minutes to absorb the natural world.
Looking at trees, mountains, rivers, and other natural features seems to give our brains a much-needed rest, allowing us to come back refreshed and ready to focus.
3. You’ll Be Less Stressed
Camping, apparently, is the perfect vacation. Two nights in a forest significantly reduced a variety of stress indicators in a group of study participants compared to their counterparts who stayed in a city.
But you don’t need to be a backpacker to take advantage of this effect!
Several other studies have shown that even looking at trees through a window can reduce your stress levels, and walking through a forested area or a grove of trees has serious benefits for your stress and health.
Taking a stroll through the trees can lower your cortisol levels (a key indicator of stress) and generally make you feel calmer and more positive about life.
Best of all, the positive effects continue for up to a month after you’ve immersed yourself in nature.
4. You’ll Be Healthier Overall
Spending time outside has been shown to reduce levels of inflammation, a physical reaction that’s been linked to problems with depression, gut and digestive issues, autoimmune disorders, and more.
It also helps lower your blood pressure and heart rate. Plus, you get an immune boost!
Trees seem to be the key here—you need to be around plants in order for the benefits to really start kicking in. If you’re not in an area where you can go stroll under some shady trees on your lunch break, see if you can find a local arboretum and drop in on the weekend.
Your improved health will be worth it!
5. You’ll Get More Vitamin D
One of the ways you’ll get healthier by spending time outdoors is by getting more Vitamin D. This essential nutrient strengthens your immune system and helps you build strong bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
It may also help balance your mood and protect your brain from cognitive decline and dementia.
Our bodies produce Vitamin D naturally when exposed to sunlight, and natural Vitamin D is more effective and readily used than the stuff that comes from supplements.
But you can’t be slathered with sunscreen to get the full benefits here—you need to spend just a little unprotected time outside in the sun each day to make it work.
Just 10 to 15 minutes spent outside each day is a safe and effective way to boost Vitamin D levels for most people, even the palest of pale!
6. You’ll Sleep Better
Our circadian rhythms are the patterns of wakefulness and sleepiness that ebb and flow during the day. In most people, they’re linked to light levels—we start waking up when the sun comes up, get most active and focused during the brightest part of the day, and then start winding down as it gets darker.
But with artificial light, we’ve messed with those natural cycles, sometimes fooling our bodies into thinking that it’s still daylight and time to be bustling around when we really need to be getting some sleep.
Getting outside and basking in the natural light can help reset your circadian rhythm and your internal clock, helping you fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply at night.
7. You’ll Edit Better
Believe it or not, walking in nature actually improves your ability to edit and proofread!
Okay, it’s more than just that—it improves all-around focus and attention to detail. But when tested in a study, being immersed in nature specifically improved participants’ scores on a proofreading test. They were more accurate, more detailed, and able to work more efficiently after spending time outside.
So if you’re struggling with edits on your latest book, or if you keep finding typos in your work, take a break and get outside for a little bit. Just 20 minutes can help!
It’ll pay off when you get through the next draft faster and with better results!
8. You’ll Be More Creative
A study by Stanford University has shown that walking—even indoors on a treadmill—makes you more creative!
People who walked for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes scored higher on tests of creative thinking and innovative problem-solving, coming up with more interesting, new, different answers than people who sat still in the same environment.
Overall, creativity was boosted a full 60% just by walking!
And the benefits only increase when you’re walking outdoors.
So the next time you’re struggling with how to resolve a sticky plot point—go take a quick walk around the neighborhood!
9. You’ll Be Less Depressed or Anxious
Mental health is a serious problem, and one that many writers struggle with.
One way to help nurture your mental health is to spend time outside.
Several studies have shown that being in nature boosts self-esteem and mood, reducing depressive episodes and anxiety. If you can spend time around water, the effects are even greater.
Walking outside combines the benefits of nature’s stress-reduction effects with the positive impact of exercise, helping you feel happier, calmer, and more able to tackle whatever life throws your way. Even in people with major depressive disorder, spending time outside has been shown to dramatically improve mental well-being.
10. You’ll See Better
Spending too much time on the computer can lead to eye strain, headaches, and even nearsightedness.
Same goes for spending too much time under harsh artificial lights—there’s increasing evidence that it can worsen nearsightedness.
The 20-20-20 rule suggests that you look at a spot 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes to help reduce eye strain…but maybe instead, we should be taking a brief walk outside every hour or two.
Being in natural light and looking at things that are varying distances away help our eyes relax, refocus, and recuperate from all that time spent staring at computer or smartphone screens.
Looking at relaxing natural scenery can even help reduce dry eye and blurry or double vision by allowing your eyes to refocus and strain less.
11. You May Live Longer
This one’s still being studied, but early results from a number of studies show that being around nature more—even just a park with some trees in it—can reduce mortality.
One study found about a 12% reduction in mortality among people who spent more time in nature, particularly linked to fewer complications from cancer, lung disease, or kidney disease.
Other studies have shown that access to green space reduces health problems and overall mortality, regardless of whether you live in the city or the country. The key here is just spending time in nature, rather than surrounded by the concrete jungle.
Basically, nature is good for our health and well-being, reducing stress, helping us focus, improving our creativity, encouraging us to exercise, and letting our bodies recover from the demands of everyday life.
Nature really is the best medicine!
Spend some time outside each day to reap the benefits in every part of your life!
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For more ways to stay healthy, read on:
- 10,000 Steps: How Far Do You Need To Go for Your Health?
- Hydrate More to Write—and Think—Better
- 6 Great Stretches for Writers