Why we need to be outside

Your parents said it all the time when you were a kid.

You think it all the time as an adult.

Maybe, if you’re like me, you crave being outside with the trees and rocks, but work or life or relationships or insert thing here take away from your outdoors time.

I’m here to tell you, from an objective point-of-view, that you have permission to give yourself the time and space to go outside.

Want the hard numbers? I encourage you to check out one of my favorite go-to guides/resources for forest therapy, The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing by Yoshifumi Miyazaki. In lieu of you reading it yourself, I’ll give you a brief:

  1. Being outside lowers your blood pressure for up to five days after you’ve spent a day outside.

  2. Walking in a park as opposed to on sidewalks in an urban area can result in more feelings of relaxation as well as lower pulse rate.

  3. Walking in the woods has shown to increase immune system activity (strengthening your immune system).

  4. Forest viewing (whether sitting or walking) has shown to reduce brain activity (= reduced stress, more feelings of relaxation!).

  5. In experiments, a reduced level of cortisol (stress hormone!) has also been shown during and after forest therapy.

Need more proof? Try it yourself for a week and note how you feel.

Miyazaki’s experiments measured stress and relaxation by measuring parasympathetic nervous system activity, sympathetic nervous system activity, stress markers in saliva, pulse, and levels of a type of immune cell. You don’t need these super fancy markers - instead, throughout each day, mark on a scale of 1-5 your stress level. Mark your stress level before, during, and after a walk, and note what parts of your body and mind feel better (or don’t feel better) after a walk. At the end of the week, look at your data.

I’ll be curious to hear how it goes!

Megan Yarnall