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Outdoors and Your Mental Health

I recently noticed that I haven’t written about the great outdoors in a long while. The benefits of striking out into the sunshine and how the outdoors can help you live a better, and happier life are worth shouting from the rooftops. Yet I fear that would eventually become redundant and predictable. I have been taking this summer to examine the details of what I believe in. I wanted to talk about why I believe that anxiety and the barriers men have in their life that keep them in a position of shoulda, coulda, and woulda is nothing more than a thinking problem, it is an issue of our thoughts that hold us back. It has nothing to do with Old man Leland busting your hump over some reports. Your mind has made it about those reports.

Yet I have been sort of dodging getting outdoors myself. My day job locations, or at times lack of locations, have caused me to become distracted from my mission of helping you get yourself outdoors. That is something I have allowed and am putting a stop to by making the needed changes to ensure that I keep to my promise to myself and you find men. Therefore, this is a long way to say, “Hey I still believe the outdoors is vital to every man’s wellbeing”. If you want to really get out of the shadow of anxiety, or beat the insecurity of what life is throwing at you, then you really want to get out into the fresh air.

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I have noticed this summer that many people have what they call social anxiety and this is fascinating because many almost have a form of agoraphobia. They can’t because of the pollution or skin cancer runs in their family. They have many excuses as to why they have trouble getting outside and I do wonder where this fear comes from. I believe I see a link between this and many of the different types of social anxiety. Yes, many over worry about what others are thinking, while others obsess over the problems in their lives. I wonder if many of these issues crop up from the media we consume.

Start paying attention to the Why

We are told that there is pollution and everything is causing cancer and many people take this false information to heart. They allow for the fear of the slight possibility of developing cancer from the source of our Vitamin D. We are being told that our earth is heavily polluted, yet the air quality has been improving since the late ’70s. Who would want you to be afraid of the sun? Stands to reason that sunscreen manufacturers would like you to be afraid of getting skin cancer. When did the big fear start building? In the late 70’s and early ’80s, of course, if they were so concerned about the effects of the sun you would think they would stop doing the very opposite and stop make sun tanning oil.

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Many people listen to just what they deem important. They then pass over what could be more important. This is often called confirmation bias. We all have it.  Like sun tanning lotion makers also making sunscreen, we ignore that small but crucial detail. Who is paying for the study of air quality? Why do they want to pay for that particular study? Who is funding the story that says you need to be protected from the sun? Many times though there may be grains of truth to the fact that people who go out into the sun are more likely to get skin cancer. The same as why you lose 90% of your body heat from your uncovered head. The reason is for that heat loss. Because your head is uncovered. You know where you would lose 90% of your heat if you didn’t have pants on. Hint, it wouldn’t be your head. The answers depend on how people ask questions.

Then why is often actually hidden from view and if the why is hidden then you might ask why?

Why the Outdoors is good for you

Now I want to share why you want to get outside. It doesn’t matter if it is the heat of the summer or the dead of winter, being outdoors on a regular basis has many more benefits than scary drawbacks that marketing companies have thought of.

Vitamin D

The biggest benefit of Vitamin D is that has many benefits for all of your body and mind. This vitamin not only helps your bones to absorb calcium but it helps you have a better outlook and attitude.  The power of Vitamin D3 affects the serotonin levels in the brain the more vitamin D3 the more content and happy you feel.

You could take vitamin d supplements and if you drink whole milk, you get a supplemental dose of Vitamin D. Yet vitamin D is actually the only vitamin that is a hormone that is why the best fit for any hormone is actually the hormones that your body produces. Your body will use the full vitamin D complex to its fullest ability if you make it. The fact that Vitamin D has such an effect on the human body I see that this helps with so many of the other benefits that are being talked about in this post. So what else does the outdoors help with?

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Improved Memory

Our minds are a lot like a muscle. They have to be worked to stay sharp. Many people try to do Sudoku or crossword puzzles and there is evidence that this helps but the outdoors do a lot of what mind puzzles do but they do it faster and better. The main reason is that engages all of your sense.

Not just your eyes which are exposed to all of the suns glorious rays but it also get the effects of hearing other noises than the sound of your air conditioning and computer fan. You hear different birds and insects. If you walk in the fall or winter, you hear different birds, like geese flying south or the Blue jay, screaming.

Then there are the new and interesting smells that are found in nature. If you are walking around on a farm, the odors could be the smell of compost or straight-up fresh manure. Then again, the fragrances you come across could be a skunk of the smell of damp cold, which for me is one of my favorite smells. It has the enticement of green life.

You also get to feel a change of temperature on your skin. Often you may not realize that you were chilled until you walk outdoors and break out in goosebumps. Then again, you may get to experience the refreshing cool sensation you walking out of a stuffy house into the frigid air. That shift many people claim to be unhealthy, that is because it stresses your immune system and in reality that stress is actually good for you. When you stress your immune system, you are making it stronger.

The 3-day effect

If you’re able to get outdoors and have a long weekend, you are able to experience what is called the 3-day effect. It appears that it takes your brain about 3 days to fully disengage. That is how long it takes to overcome the sensory overload we get when we live out normal day-to-day life. The three-day effect is what happens when you actually spend 3 or more days out in nature away from the lights and noises of today’s society.

After those three days, many people find that their anxiety and depression start to lessen significantly. People who have been studied while in the 3-day effect show that their mental function is clearer. Their memory increases. Their outlook on life is more positive.

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Soldiers with PTSD are shown to start to relax and often start making better steps to healing from their emotional losses. All thanks to their being able to disengage in the mental chaos of our cities and day-to-day lives.

The reason that this happens is that nature forces you to slow down. You return to a time that you want to process all that you see and experience. To really experience this, you have to be immersed in nature for 3 days. On that third day, you will notice that you are a completely different person.

Less Inflammation

Often our body’s immune system is on high alert. There are all sorts of theories as to why this happens. Sometimes our bodies are so worked up that they attack the very thing that it is supposed to be protecting. Hence, why so many people have different allergic reactions or times that, the body becomes inflamed for one reason or another.

My theory is that there is so much stress in society and life that we have to slow down. Thanks to the 3-day effect and the fact that you have to slow down and take life easier when out in nature your body starts to also slow down the effects of inflammation start to ease. It could be that while you are out in nature you are not focused so much on what is hurting. Then again, it could also be that you are allowing your body to breathe and heal from the damage it has done itself.

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More Energy

Many people talk about the pollution that we have outdoors. You hear particular groups crying how we have such dirty air and dirty water. The fascinating part is that our dirtiest air isn’t outdoors. Even in China. It is right inside our own buildings. The systems are so closed off and sealed that there is no exchange of air. This has caused what is called sick building syndrome. Which people who are normally happy get sick while they are in the building and then as they leave for the weekends they get to feeling better?

Getting outside allows you to get more fresh air and clean fresh oxygen into your lungs. Then add that we are often walking or working our bodies while outside we get out O2 levels up to normal operating levels which give us so much more energy.

Then the fact that because you work your bodies so much more when you are outside, we tend to rest more fitfully. So then, we wake up and we are more rested better oxygenated. Therefore, that helps us to be even more energetic to go out and enjoy all that nature provides for us.

Better attitude

You know how I said Vitamin D helps with mood. Well, it seems that the blue side of the spectrum has an effect on your mood. It can trash how well you sleep which causes problems with your moods. These blue-colored light are found in everything from the fluorescent bulbs to the CFL bulbs we were forced to buy a few years ago. Even now, the LED bulbs have a blue hue to them so they have made the needed changes to limit those blue colors. Our computer screens to the television screens all flood our eyes with blue spectrum. This blue spectrum is believed to tell our bodies that it is day time so that is one reason that it keeps us awake.

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Therefore, when you get outdoors into the sunshine you get a full spectrum the needed blue lights but also the needed red lights. WE get the Vitamin producing ultraviolet and the skin warming infrared. The sun is what we were either designed or evolved into need. So get outdoors and get a smile on that face.

Better Eyesight

We live in such dark buildings the light is limited to bulbs and windows. Often the light can be harsh and uneven. This puts such a strain on your eyes. Then add that we spend so much time indoors instead of letting our eyes focus on a distant object there are thoughts that the outdoors and poor quality of light has increased our dependence on glasses

So there you go If you want to have a better mind and a sharper mind, a happier mind, a rested mind. You want and need to get outdoors regularly, even if it is that you only walk for 10 minutes. Do so and add as much sun and fresh air as you possibly can to the mix. This will help you focus more while actually getting to smile and relaxed. Instead of worrying about what danger is lurking around the corner. If you want to build a better life, grab your sleeping bag and tent this weekend and go outside for a few days.

Have you spent time outdoors and noticed the 3-day effect? If so what were you struggling with and how did being outdoors help you?

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About Bryan Goodwin

I like being able to help people find their "why" and achieve the personal freedom they desire. Besides writing for Relaxed Male I also am a life coach. By helping men find the leader that is found in each and every one of us. I do this by encouraging men to get outdoors and find the balance they are missing. Realize that they need to be in contact with the outside as often as they can. It is not only good for them but for their families and relationships.

2 Comments

  1. Great post. The outdoors can be so, so beneficial to our mental health. If you think about it, humans are meant to be out among nature. The concrete jungle of cities and towns can be so stressful and consuming.

    1. Thank you so much for the input. I love all that the outdoors does for us sadly it seems that many people want to make sure you are afraid of the outdoors and perpetuate keeping people comfortable while they are in their caves.

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