As autumn closes in and winter is fast approaching, it is really tempting to take the change of seasons as a sign – and permission – to spend more time indoors on indoor things. But for me, autumn (maybe more than any other season) is a time of year when I choose to layer up and get outside, to enjoy the crisp air and changing of the seasons. Some of my best memories from the University of Maryland involve the fall – from flag football games with my sisters on Fraternity Row, to football games and tailgates, or just walking back to the Sigma Kappa class in the sunshine (of course always wearing a turtleneck and my lettered sweatshirt)!
Besides the beauty of the season, here are three reasons to get outside during this most glorious time of the year.
1. Spending Time Outside Reduces Stress
Back in 1982 the Japanese government promoted the concept of “forest bathing” or shinrin yoku as a means for people to use a walk through the forest to reconnect with nature as a way to create balance in their lives and manage stress.
Since then, studies have shown there are measurable health benefits that happen by simply taking a walk in the forest. Lower cortisol (the stress hormone), lower heart rate, lower blood pressure and a greater sense of well-being.
Fall is the perfect time of year to practice “forest bathing.” Layer up with your favorite sweater and to head to the trees to enjoy the changing colors of the leaves. The Japanese guidelines suggest walking no more than 3 miles in four hours. The idea is to enjoy nature, to focus on the small things like the smells and colors. And to bring along lunch, snacks and water or tea – to really relax without feelings of hunger or worry about time.
2. Walking Inspires Creativity
In 2014, a study by Stanford University showed that walking enhances creativity – specifically idea generation and creative thinking, both during and immediately after a walk.
So whether you are stuck on ideas for a mid-term or final paper, or having a problem at work that you just can’t puzzle your way through, layering up and heading out for a walk is a great way to free the mind to find ideas and inspiration.
3. Heading Outside is Healthy
Besides reducing stress and inspiring creativity, being outside is healthy.
Being outside allows the body to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for bone, heart and neuromuscular health, and is produced by the skin in reaction to Ultraviolet light (the B spectrum). Vitamin D also plays a role in mitigating depression.
Although it is impossible to get the full amount of Vitamin D required by the body from sunlight alone in the autumn and winter months, undoubtedly being outside helps.
Being outside and getting fresh air increases energy levels. As the months get colder and darker it is tempting to turn our attention inward – to long for a warm fire and cup of hot chocolate, to settle onto the sofa with a blanket and Netflix to pass the time. Research shows that time outdoors will help us to feel more energized, and as a consequence we will feel healthier.