My Voice: The Benefits of Spending More Time Outside

Taken by Staff Photographer Elliana Miller-Young

I feel as though it is safe to assume that most people are aware we are living in the time of an environmental crisis. I am not going to get into any specifics or indulge in the science of it, I simply want to speak about the outdoors and its importance to one’s well-being.

A couple semesters ago, I took the class “Environmental Ethics.” No class has changed the way I view my daily activities in the way that this class has. I saw a change in nearly every classmate by the end of the semester, and I feel like we all bonded over our deeper love for the planet.

One point that has stuck with me the strongest is the idea that people who have no real connection with nature will have a hard time caring about it. This can be seen in everything, not just nature. 

Someone who doesn’t go to theme parks probably won’t care about a theme park being shut down. The same could be said for movie theaters, malls and many others. I’m sure you get the point.

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Taken by Staff Photographer Elliana Miller-Young

When I think about my childhood, I picture building “bridges” in the woods, playing in the creek, going to the park and using leaves as money with my sisters. I grew up playing outside from sun up to sun down. I always thought that a deep appreciation for nature was innate in all humans. At some point in time it was and in some cultures it is, but I think we see it less and less.

My engulfment in nature during the most important stage of my mental development plays a large role into the connection I have with it today. It’s also the reason that I try and get my younger siblings outside as much as possible. Losing our connection with nature not only does harm to Mother Earth, but to our own health as well.

On one of my impulsive library trips, I was drawn to the book “Forest Bathing” by Dr. Qing Li. In this book, he speaks of the positive things that simply being in nature can do for us. 

“Outside is where we can smell the flowers,” he says, “taste the fresh air, look at the changing colours of the trees, hear the birds singing and feel the breeze on our skin. And when we begin to use our senses, we begin to connect to the natural world.”

We are natural beings just as the animals that go about their days based on the rhythms of the Earth as well as their bodies. We are disconnected from these rhythms due to our advancement as a species and while it has become the social norm, it does not mean it is healthy.

I know that when I find myself feeling ill or drowsy for no apparent reason, it is probably because I have yet to spend any significant time in the sun that day. Going from home to school and to work, is not enough sunlight. Taking the outside route to my classes rather than being inside for every transition is sometimes the little bit that I need to feel more energized.

Aside from the fact that the daily lives of many do not allow for ample free time, there are other factors that play into the inability to spend time outside simply existing as the natural beings we are.

Many of us are tired of the constant attack on technology and how we spend too much time on our phones, but hear me out for a second.

Taken by Staff Photographer Elliana Miller-Young

Whether it’s a book, a phone or an mp3 player, people like to be able to occupy their minds. That’s totally understandable. Sitting on the toilet? Read something. Going on a walk? Listen to something. It can be intimidating to think about existing with only yourself. Most people don’t pencil in a date with their brain on their weekly schedule. How convenient it is that spending time out in nature is a nice way to meet in the middle.

Depending on where one is, the backyard, a metro park or the forest by one’s home, there are many things going on in nature to which one can avert attention. The mind can be occupied with things outside of itself, but it will be occupied by the nature from which we are so detached.

I highly advise you to take some of this into practice. Reading about spending time in nature is not enough. You have to find what works for you and make an effort to stick with it. It is a continued effort just as anything necessary to better one’s life.

Spending more time outside will have positive effects on the individual and having more people connected with nature and therefore caring about nature will have positive effects on our Earth as well.

A TedxNashville talk describing the health benefits surrounding yourself with nature can provide. (YouTube/TedxTalks)

Everett Ruess was a man who spent the last years of his life traveling on foot and living with very little goods or money. During his time in the wilderness, he wrote many letters to share his feelings and experiences. I will leave you with a quote by Ruess that sums up his love for the natural world. Ponder his words and imagine what a relationship with nature could mean to you.

“I have been thinking more and more that I should always be a lone wanderer of the wilderness.” Ruess wrote. “God, how the trail lures me. You cannot comprehend its resistless fascination for me. After all the lone trail is the best…I’ll never stop wandering. And when the time comes to die, I’ll find the wildest, loneliest, most desolate spot there is.”

Hannah Shafer
Reporter

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