Are you still watching “Bridgerton?” 

There it is. The dreaded notification confirming that even the computerized Netflix robot has noticed your incessant TV binging. 

Now before you immediately click “continue watching” without hesitation, think about it for a second. Rainy and cold out? No brainer, definitely press that button. But if the sun is shining and the weather is nice, some time outside could do you some good. Here are just a few of the ways that spending time in nature can help you physically, mentally, and emotionally feel your best. 

Get those steps in! 

Whether you’re a marathon-savvy runner or not, walking outdoors is a fun and painless way to get some movement into your day. For me, going to the gym often feels like a chore. Watching the elliptical machine’s slow-moving calorie count down not only makes my workout feel endless, but also takes away much of the enjoyment of exercising. 

shallow focus photography of person walking on road between grass

As someone who will never enjoy running, going on walks around my neighborhood, either alone or with family, has become one of my favorite quarantine activities. It’s refreshing to get a change of scenery, whether I am on campus or in my hometown. While it may be less grueling, research shows that both moderate walking and running were similarly correlated with lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and a reduced risk of heart disease. 

In addition to the personal physical benefits, you can also use this time outdoors to give back to your community. Disposing of any litter you see around your neighborhood is an easy way to keep your community clean, and to make your walks feel more fulfilling. So shuffle your favorite playlist, catch up on your favorite podcast, and that walk will fly by! 

Take care of your mental health

With so much free time on our hands, overthinking is inevitable. Being trapped inside all day has made my own thoughts and concerns consuming, and has turned even the trivial “what should I eat for breakfast?” into a seemingly monumental decision. My house is also chaotic with my sister and parents working from home, there is always a lot going on. 

woman walking on pathway during daytime

Enjoying the outdoors has allowed me to take a step back, take a breath of fresh air, and forget about my worries for a bit. Just looking up at the sky and seeing how small and insignificant we are as individuals compared to the beauty around us is definitely humbling, and even therapeutic. 

A 2015 study compared brain activity of people who spent 90 minutes walking in an urban area to people who spent 90 minutes in a more natural setting. The group who spent time in the more nature experienced lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with negative emotions. Similarly, opting to exercise in natural outdoor areas has been shown to reduce one’s risk of mental health issues by 50%. Taking a breath of fresh air, feeling the breeze, and watching the trees sway is a great way to relieve stress and improve your mood.

Sunlight is good for the soul (and body) 

Sunshine has more benefits than simply getting that glowy summer tan. Studies find that sun exposure stimulates areas in the retina to release serotonin, a hormone associated with increased happiness. Soaking up those rays, even for just fifteen minutes a day, can help you maintain a positive mood and lessen the risk of seasonal depression.

green leaf trees at daytime

In addition to improving attitude, time in the sun is also correlated with stronger bones. The sun releases Vitamin D, which prevents bone fragility and diseases like osteoporosis. Along with these structural benefits you may not be able to see, sunlight also can help your skin. Sun exposure has been proven to help relieve acne, eczema, and psoriasis. But don’t forget your SPF! 

COVID-friendly way to stay social 

Lack of social interaction has been one of the hardest aspects of the pandemic for many people, myself included. While I am always down to spend time alone in pajamas, hanging out with friends and relating about our COVID experiences makes me feel much less alone. Going on walks outdoors is the perfect way to see friends in a socially distant environment, without the risk of being inside. 

two person walking towards mountain covered with snow

Walking or hiking in masks and 6 ft. apart has been one of my primary ways to keep in touch with people away from the screen, and to have fun while doing it. If you want to spice up your walk, you can go with your friends, family, or even your dog to a state or national park. Visiting a national park not only gives you and your friends an exciting and educational daytime excursion but can also help these parks obtain the financial resources needed to maintain their unique biodiversity.

Staying connected to your planet

Spending more time outside has definitely made me feel more connected to the nature around me. Despite how unprecedented the world is right now, the beautiful environment around us is one thing that has remained consistent. For me personally, seeing how much the environment has done for my mental and physical health throughout this pandemic has inspired me to give back to nature. Whether it be recycling more, opting to walk instead of driving, or simply educating yourself about environmental issues at hand, no action is too small. The environment has been there for us through our hardest times, so we need to be there for it too.