Finding Joy in the Great Outdoors

Karen: Hi, I’m Karen Bannister, eco-newbie. Welcome to Conscious Choice Podcast...episode 9. Today we are going to talk about spending time outdoors. The health benefits to breathing fresh air and the side effects of having a refreshed Perspective during this challenging time. I’m with my co-host Jenny LaCorte Bailey...

Jenny: Thank you Karen! This is Jenny, eco-mom. I’m so happy to be here today! The season is spring, and the weather is wonderful. Yesterday I spent pretty much the entire day outside! I can’t wait to jump into our topic today!

Karen: Whether you’re a newcomer to eco and sustainable living, like me, or you’ve been working on your sustainable habits for a while, like Jenny, you are welcomed here at Conscious Choice Podcast.

Jenny: Karen and I love exploring new ways to incorporate conscious habits, especially in the areas of health & wellness, fashion, home, travel, and personal care products, into our daily lives.

Karen: As Jenny said, the weather is warming up - of course to varying degrees depending on where you live - the season of spring does beckon us to get outside though. We understand the invitation outside comes with its own set of rules and responsibilities during the Covid Pandemic. Wear a mask, allow for six feet from another person, wash your hands often, and follow your States guidelines.

Jenny: That’s right, while we are going to talk about the joys of spending time outdoors, we encourage everyone to follow your State’s Covid-19 recommendations and guidelines. Now that we’ve shared the necessary disclaimer, let’s dive in!

Karen: Yes, let’s dive in! Jenny, what do you have for us?

Jenny: Mother Nature offers us so many beautiful gifts. What better time than the present to schedule or carve out sacred outdoor moments. I know I feel better - happier, more energized, when I spend time outside. But I didn’t want our listeners to take my word for it, so I turned to science. There are a number of studies from reputable sources like that support my outdoor oasis enjoyment, like Harvard Medical School, University of East Anglia - a world leading research institution - in England, as well as University of Essex also in England. I also found science-backed articles from Business Insider and Daily Floss.

I bet you’re asking yourself, “What did you find?” I found, without a doubt, that spending time outside will improve your health - both physical and mental. Let’s dig deeper…

Many people spend workdays indoors. Typically offices / office buildings install fluorescent lighting. Studies have shown that CFL’s, as they are referred, emit EMFs, have a flicker effect that can cause migraines and other sensitivities to the nervous system. We also spend a lot of the day in front of our computers, and a large population ends the day in the glow of our television screens. Better lighting choices are sunlight or candlelight, followed by incandescent, then halogen, then LEDs, then CFLs.

Karen: I can vouch for the migraine issue with fluorescent lighting. I need to be careful and work with facility teams where I do work so I don’t get triggered.

Jenny: Oh, wow, thank you for sharing, Karen. And research suggests it's important to make time to get outdoors as well, since doing so is beneficial — maybe essential — for human health. Psychologists and health researchers are finding more and more science-backed reasons we should go outside and enjoy the natural world.

Humans do need to spend time in natural environments if they want to improve their physical and mental health. That could mean taking advantage of hiking trails near your home, playing in the snow, swimming in the ocean, or just spending time every week in a local park.

So let’s share our three choices for you this time.

Karen: As usual, we present to you three options, or choices, that you could incorporate into your life.

  1. CHOICE ONE: However much time you’re spending outside now, see if adding a little more works for you.

  2. CHOICE TWO: Slow down and take in nature’s beauty, whether it be to smell the flowers, observe the views, or feel the air/breeze.

  3. CHOICE THREE: Eat outside - backyard, front yard, side yard...Stay near the home because of circumstances. Bring out the nice linens, and fun glasses to make it extra special. Dining Al - fresco.

The research to why it’s important to spend time outside is impressive. Jenny…?

Jenny: The study results are ticking up: spending time outdoors seems to have discernible benefits for physical and mental health. Granted, some are merely by association and can be achieved by other means, perhaps while indoors, but often only with a good deal more trouble and expense. Here are five potential benefits of spending more time outdoors:

1. Your vitamin D levels will go up

Jenny: Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because sunlight hitting the skin begins the circuitous process — the liver and kidneys get involved — that eventually leads to the creation of the biologically active form of the vitamin. Overall, research is showing that many vitamins, while necessary, don't have such great disease-fighting powers, but vitamin D may prove to be the exception.

2. You'll get more exercise (especially if you're a child)

Jenny: You don't need to be outside to be active: millions of people exercise indoors in gyms or at home on treadmills and elliptical trainers. Nor is being outside a guarantee of activity. At the beach on a summer day most people are in various angles of repose.

Still, there's no question that indoor living is associated with being sedentary, particularly for children, while being outdoors is associated with activity. According to some surveys, American children spend an average of 6 hours a day with electronic media (video games, television, and so on), time that is spent mainly indoors and sitting down. British researchers used Global Positioning System devices and accelerometers, which sense movement, to track the activity of 1,000 children. They found that the children were more than doubly active when they were outside.

Adults can go to the gym. Many prefer the controlled environment there. But if you make getting outside a goal, that should mean less time in front of the television and computer and more time walking, biking, gardening, cleaning up the yard, and doing other things that put the body in motion.

3. You'll be happier (especially if your exercise is 'green')

Jenny: Light tends to elevate people's mood, and unless you live in a glass house or are using a light box to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), there's usually more light available outside than in. Physical activity has been shown to relax and cheer people up, so if being outside replaces inactive pursuits with active ones, it might also mean more smiles and laughter.

Researchers at the University of Essex in England are advancing the notion that exercising in the presence of nature has added benefit, particularly for mental health. Their investigations into "green exercise," as they are calling it, dovetails with research showing benefits from living in proximity to green, open spaces.

4. Your creative will improve

Jenny: I’d like to share a personal story. When I was in college, I had to turn in a big term paper in 2-3 days, and I was at a loss of what to write. I went to school in San Diego, so I went out by the pool, and - we didn’t have laptops back then - I had a notepad to write long-hand and the ideas started to pour out of me. Sitting in that sun and breathing that fresh air did something for me to get the work done! What about you, Karen?

Karen: Oh, wow, yes, as a writer, and like all writers, we get writers block. There’s no getting around it. When I was working on my book, I was stuck on a particular chapter and was getting very frustrated about how to say what I was trying to say, so I put on my shoes, popped in my headphones and went for a walk. Once I got out there, smelling, and feeling, and hearing…the solution came to me in a wave. Being outside allowed me to get out of my head and my brain kicked into creative mode. It was like magic.

5. You may heal faster

Jenny: University of Pittsburgh researchers reported in 2005 that spinal surgery patients experienced less pain and stress and took fewer pain medications during their recoveries if they were exposed to natural light. An older study showed that the view out the window (trees vs. a brick wall) had an effect on patient recovery. Of course, windows and views are different than actually being outside, but we're betting that adding a little fresh air to the equation couldn't hurt and might help.

Some other (possible) benefits of spending time outside:

  • Reduces inflammation.

  • Helps eliminate fatigue.

  • May help fight depression and anxiety.

  • May protect your vision.

  • Free aromatherapy

  • May boost your immune system

According to science, you really should stop and smell the flowers. Research shows that natural scents like roses, freshly cut grass, and pine make you feel calmer and more relaxed.

Learning about your local plants and flowers can become a hobby beyond just observing what you see when you are outside. There are websites and apps that can help you learn more about it:

  • lets you put in an address and then tells you what plants grow there that are native to the region! This can help guide you to know what to look for.

  • If you are looking for a specific flower or plant, check out, which is a little nerdy but very helpful and will give you some many resources when you are ready.

  • If you really want to nerd out and see what other people find or hope to identify (where I started to learn a lot) check out the California Native Plant Society Facebook page or the one for your state. This time of year it will be super-blooming in your face every day.

  • You can get online from your local bookstore,

Jenny: I think one of the most important points to take away is that THE OUTDOORS MAKES US BETTER PEOPLE. According to psychologists, exposure to nature helps us shrug off societal pressures, allowing us to remember and value more important things like relationships, sharing, and community.

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest