By Eliza Butler, M.A. Integrative Health Coach
Give your energy a boost by getting outside
If you’re reading this right now, you’re either on your phone or on your computer, and chances are high that you’re sitting at a desk, on a couch, or even lying in bed. Chances are even higher that you are indoors. Am I right? Thought so.
It’s an easy bet to make because on average, humans spend 90% of time indoors. Think about that for a second. That’s a LOT of our lives spent confined between 4 walls!! If the claustrophobia alone isn’t enough to get you outside, there are now dozens of health studies showing that being out in nature can significantly improve our health.
But wait! There’s more. It turns out there are specific things we can do when venturing outdoors to increase our health and happiness even more! Here are 3 things you can start doing while out in nature that have some serious health benefits.
Don’t be afraid to get dirty
Bacteria has gotten a bad rep over the years, but there are a lot of good bacteria that our bodies need to function. For a long time healthcare practitioners and providers focused on eliminating bacteria from our daily lives to help eliminate bacteria-caused diseases (think loads of antibiotics). What they didn’t realize, however, was that by prescribing antibiotics, they were also killing all the good bacteria in the body needed for many different bodily functions, including immune function.
So how do we start to bring good bacteria back into our system so we won’t get sick? You guessed it. Getting outside! Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Play in the sand. Go for hikes. Breathe the fresh air. Maybe even throw away that bottle of Purrell if you’re feeling crazy! Just know that the more good bacteria we are exposed to, the better.
Don’t wear sunscreen…for the first 15 minutes.
The benefits of Vitamin D are widespread among people who live in cold and dark winter environments (heads up to all of Canada!) But for those of you who don’t know, vitamin D functions as a hormone in the body and helps with immune system and blood pressure regulation, promotes the absorption of calcium to help build strong bones, and helps to regulate mood. In fact, low levels of Vitamin D are correlated to low serotonin levels, the “feel good” hormone that is released when we are in a good mood.
The most effective way for the body to absorb Vitamin D is through direct sunlight exposure. What most people don’t realize, though, is that Vitamin D cannot be absorbed when we have sunscreen on. It’s been shown that a mere 15 minutes of direct sunlight without sunscreen is enough to get the Vitamin D you need, so get outside, bask in the sun for 15 minutes, then make sure to put the sunscreen on!
Walk around barefoot
There is a practice called “grounding” that has been making waves in the research. It has been shown to improve sleep, and reduce stress levels and inflammation in the body. What is this magical practice, you ask? Simply taking off your socks and shoes and touching bare skin to the earth.
So how does grounding work? Our body naturally produces something called free radicals. These are very reactive molecules in the body that can damage and kill cells, leading to the breakdown of overall functioning in the body. We are also exposed to free radicals through many of our modern day technology and industrial chemicals. In order to prevent free radicals from harming us, we must somehow neutralize these molecules to create balance in the body. That’s where the Earth comes in. Because earth’s charge is negative, touching our bare skin to its surface is an effective way to neutralize free radicals. How cool is that?!
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, there is no “wrong way” of getting outdoors as long as you are safe and ethical. So the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation at work, are lacking creativity, need some sleep, or are just feeling rundown, I invite you to make it a habit to use nature as your first line of defence. After all, nature is the best medicine.
Eliza Butler, M.A. is an Integrative Health Coach, fitness instructor, and meditation teacher in Vancouver, BC. She hosts workshops and consults for companies around topics such as exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, and mindset all over North America. She is an avid skier and hiker. To learn more about Eliza, follow her on instagram or visit her website.