Why We Need To Be Outdoors

14th Jan 2018
Nature's Anti-Depressant

My early working life in London involved travelling in stuffy trains, and walking along roads full of buildings and hardly a tree or flower in sight. Then I would spend the day with artificial light, central heating or air-conditioning, and double-glazed windows that didn’t open for health and safety reasons. Good for safety, but health? I was suffocating, feeling ill and low-spirited, and in desperate need of nature.

As a country child I was outside in all weathers, climbing trees, mushrooming, communing with birds and wild flowers, and rescuing injured creatures. Nothing kept me indoors, except homework and sleep. I felt happy outdoors. Now I know why, physiologically.

Nature is abundant with negative air ions, which give a boost to whole body health.

Air ions are tiny, invisible particles which bear an electric charge. They can be positive (harmful) or negative (beneficial). They don’t float around in the air, but are part of the air itself.

When we are out and about in sunlight, and air and water that is moving around, such as rain, wind, streams, the sea or a waterfall, or anywhere in nature, negative air ions are drawn into our lungs as we breathe. From our lungs they are absorbed into our bloodstream, where they produce biochemical reactions that increase the level of serotonin in our body. Serotonin is the feel-good hormone that reduces stress, boosts our energy, and uplifts our spirits.

Negative ions also increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, resulting in mental alertness and energy, and they are said to protect against air-borne germs, so preventing or relieving colds, coughs and chest irritations.

Negative ions and natural light can both help to relieve SAD (seasonal affective disorder), and its feelings of depression, which is why walking or exercising outdoors, gardening, and any outdoor activity is helpful.

What depletes the air of beneficial negative ions and produces harmful positive ions are closed-up homes and workplaces, stuffy buses and cars, also central heating and air conditioning, and all the equipment, computers and machinery involved in our daily life. These can all cause drowsiness, and a feeling of lethargy and stagnation.  

So, when you are struggling with low spirits, tiredness, stress or mental fog, get outside and take a walk, or sit on a park bench, whatever the weather. If you can’t, at least open the window or door, and let in some fresh air, and take some deep breaths. Nature always has a remedy for us.

Copyright © 2018 Brenda Martin

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