“Go play outside!”
You might have heard that from your parents. You might have thought they wanted you out of their hair, or to get away from the TV, but what if we told you they might have had a point? (Gasp, never!) It’s not too surprising though; before the onset of COVID-19, Americans spent more than 90% of their lives indoors. Considering the far reaching effects of coronavirus and social isolation, that percentage may be higher for some.
On the flipside, with many now working from home and children either out of school or participating in school online, many adults and children have rediscovered the outdoors and have used it to their advantage to combat the boredom that comes with social distancing.
We here at Olive Branch Therapy Group want to encourage you to reconnect with nature and enjoy the natural physical and mental perks of getting outside. Yes, especially in this age of social distancing and quarantine, you can get outside. Whether it’s something as small as your patio or balcony, or you have the chance to venture farther outside, just remember these rules:
- Keep at least six feet between you and others outside of your household.
- Avoid crowded hikes or popular outside destinations.
- Wash your hands as recommended by the CDC, even if you feel like you haven’t touched anything that’s been contaminated.
- Practice appropriate coughing and sneezing measures.
Even just two hours a week spent outside can do wonders for your body and mind. Whether you’re experiencing mental fatigue, stress about the current coronavirus pandemic or seasonal blues, here are five benefits to getting outdoors:
1. Helps counteract seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as SAD, is a type of depression that manifests during winter months, or months that are typically gloomier. Most research suggests that this is due to low light levels and vitamin D. Even if you don’t suffer from SAD, exposing yourself to a little sunlight once in a while can lift your mood and boost your vitamin D levels.
2 Reduces inflammation.
Inflammation can cause a gamut of issues, including IBS, autoimmune diseases, depression and cancer. Help ease inflammation and boost your immunity by getting outdoors. Studies have shown that eldery patients with essential hypertension that spent time outdoors “forest bathing” (immersing themselves in a forest) reported a “significant reduction in blood pressure” and an overall “therapeutic effect.”
3. Eases anxiety.
If you’re stressing out, spending some time outside of your home or office can do wonders for your mental health. Remember, it’s important to take a break from social media, the news and even your current environment while under quarantine. Additionally, getting some fresh air can also improve your creativity. Studies have shown that those who spend roughly 120 minutes outside a week reported lower anxiety levels and more autonomy (in other words, felt more self-sufficient.)
4. Boosts Vitamin D levels.
We know we’ve mentioned this before, but what exactly are the benefits of increasing your vitamin D? Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” fights diseases (such as multiple sclerosis, heart disease and the flu,) reduces depression, and promotes healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D deficiency can result in fatigue, stress fractures and muscle pain. Getting sufficient sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D.
5. Improves your ability to focus.
Do you suffer from ADHD? Or perhaps you just find it hard to concentrate in such stressful times? Either way, children and adults who spend more time outside have been shown to have an increased ability to pay attention, and lower levels of stress and anxiety. A survey of children with ADHD who participated in outdoor activities after school and on the weekends suggested that “exposure to nature reduces ADHD symptoms.” As a bonus, short-term memory was also improved.
So here’s your takeaway: Try to get outside at least two hours each week, while practicing safe social distancing.
These are just a few of the far reaching mental and physical benefits of getting outside, and as a team focused on helping others live their best life, we strongly recommend you get your daily dose of sunshine, especially in this day and age. If you’re looking for more ways to combat coronavirus anxiety, depression, ADHD or other qualms, check out our other blog articles or reach out to us at any time. At Olive Branch Therapy Group, our clinical team is always looking forward to helping you add a little more sunshine to your life.
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