Physical and mental health benefits of being outdoors

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Illustration by Shannon Kidd

If you’re at all like me, you try to stay indoors because, well…that’s where my laptop is.

That’s where I know I can watch Netflix at any time in the sanctuary of my warm, cozy bed, accompanied by my indoor cat (note the “indoor” part). I get outside when it is necessary—going to work or school—but then I retreat back into my studio for some good ol’ binge watching.

However, no one really talks about the health benefits of being indoors (besides like, not being taken out by an ax murderer because you decided that ONE time to risk it and go outside).

Dare I say, I think there are more health benefits of being outdoors than indoors.

First off, the sun. Yes, too much of anything can be a bad thing; however, “too much sun” has never been uttered in Portland. When the sun does hit town it’s as if the clouds departed just to present the citizens of Portland with the ultimate gift of sunshine. Finally, you can put those vitamin D pills down and take it in naturally!

Nothing can really boost your immune system, health and mood quite like the sun can. The warmth, when it kisses your skin, is unlike any other, especially if you live in Oregon.

Another health benefit of going outdoors is creative production and basically, overall mental health.

Yes, watching Netflix and eating a lot is a great vice. However, what kind of benefits does that hold?

Going outside, taking in the fresh (somewhat) air and exploring the environment around you actually produces more creativity and concentration. Overall, it increases your brain functionality.

Look at it this way: When you are home, doing your own thing, what kind of experience are you ensuing for your mind?

Yes, homework and reading can definitely inspire you, and it can definitely make your brain work, but that is only a small fraction of what your brain needs.

Stimuli from the outside can increase your productivity because not only are you happier, but you are also more relaxed and level.

You can also become so much more inspired outdoors. Do you really think Edgar Allen Poe wrote his poem “The Raven” while cooped up inside? He probably saw a raven and was like, “This would make a dope poem.” Okay, maybe Edgar Allen Poe isn’t the best example.

But I know for a fact that John Keats wrote “Ode to a Nightingale” because he saw a bird on a tree outside his kitchen window. Bam! Inspiration.

In fact, you can even use the outdoor air as caffeine. Lying in bed makes your brain think it is time for bed and that you should be sleepy, which is why people who spend most of their time indoors tend to be sleepier than those that spend their time outdoors. Also, fresh air is a natural stimulant, rather than those fresh-ground coffee beans.

Something else entirely suitable for a college kid is stress reduction.

Ever notice when you’re in the woods and the fresh smell of pine tickles your nostrils, you suddenly aren’t as worried about your midterm as you were inside your house? That’s because the peacefulness of the outdoors triggers endorphins within your brain to help you relax.

So instead of drinking a ton of coffee and nervously watching your show while in the back of your brain you think, “I’ll start my paper at 8 p.m. Oh, it’s already 8:01? Gotta wait till 9 p.m.” Why not just take a walk outdoors?

I could probably use some of my own advice and take some more walks outdoors. Even in the rain, it is far more healthy to walk around outside than constantly stay cooped up indoors.

So grab an umbrella (no matter how un-Oregonian that is) and get walking!

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