If you are bit of a reprobate and don’t follow the scouts rule of ‘be prepared’ the outdoors can get you soaked through, make your fingers numb, your nose run and cruelly make you fall flat on your face. But there’s some science. Some legitimate, genuine, bona fide science that says we are better out than in. Like most things. Here’s why…
– It can make you happy –
My friends and I used to sleep under an Ash tree we named Father Edwin Ash in some green field near to a river that we would make great efforts to catch crayfish in, somewhere in Oxfordshire. We always woke up smiling despite the ache that we’d come to accept as a given after a night lying on twisted tree roots.
That smile is scientific. There is SO much research that says how time outside lowers stress levels and feelings of depression, making you feel more positive all round. There are even certain flowers and plants, like the needles of pine trees or jasmine, whose scent has been proven to make you feel more relaxed.
– It can make you stronger –
In the back of our garden there were some dense evergreens that had bent perfectly to make me and my sisters a dark den hidden from view from the dreaded parents. In that den we’d make potions mixed from mud and the seeds of the silver birch tree opposite. I put those muddy paws of childhood down as why I’m good at not catching colds now I’m a little bit more grown up.
That’s science too. There’s a bunch of research that shows how time spent outdoors boosts your immune system. If you spend a good chunk of your week out there your white blood cell count goes up and that makes your stronger.
– It’s where adventure happens –
Climbing the highest branch of the tallest tree in my village while the other village kids looked up in awe (and I looked down in fear); galloping full pelt across a plateau in South Africa’s Draakensberg mountain range; watching the sun set with my bestest from a dune in the Moroccan desert; hiking through the sweltering jungle in a corner of Colombia; sipping coffee out of a tin mug after nights in a bivvy bag. Outside is the setting for my most favourite stories.
Sure, you can probably watch this stuff on a screen and from the comfort of your duvet but I have a hunch it just won’t be quite as satisfying.
– It can make you sharp –
The journey kayaking to my favourite spot on Old Harry Rocks has always been accompanied by some of my best ideas and clearest thinking. I used to put that down to the fact that those were some of the only times where I was met with no distractions- other than seagulls and an occasional tourist pointing and shouting at me from the cliff top.
Studies that have compared the concentration of children who played outside after school with those who played inside found that greater concentration was experienced by those children who had been outdoors. Ever taken a walking meeting outside of the office? It helps creativity flow and even gives you a free burst of energy (they say 20 minutes outside is like the pow in one cup of coffee).
– It’s part of us –
We are connected to it. Made from it. Dependent on it. Nourished by it. Protector of it.
When you think of it like that it kind of makes sense that getting out in it is good for us.
In a nutshell, going outside is good for you. Aside from the facts, my gut tells me this is true because every womble in the woods, every sleep under the stars, every forage for food and every big countryside breath taken in has shown me it.