The Importance of Getting Outside


As a person who has depression, I cannot overstate the importance of getting out of one’s shell.  A great way to do this is to get outside.

The Importance of Getting Outside

I know that my depression is chemical, and unavoidable.  My medications help me manage the severe symptoms, but it is up to me to do some legwork too.  And one of the best ways to do legwork on my condition is to literally do legwork.

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One doesn’t have to be a star athlete, or walk 500 miles, but getting outside is a great way to help one’s mood stabilize.  For starters, the sun naturally lifts one’s mood, as the brain reacts to daylight in a chemical manner.  One is literally changing one’s inner chemistry during the time one stays outside.  I know this not just because I try to spend time outside, but because I use a Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lamp each morning.  I use it only for 15 minutes while I eat breakfast, but it does wonders to lift my mood.  In short, it mimics sunlight to trick one’s brain into thinking there is more daylight than there actually is.  With more daylight being perceived by the brain, one’s internal operations change and one’s mood is stabilized.  Here is the lamp I use:

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IMG_2569Another way getting outside is great for combating mental illness is the sheer exercise of moving around.  We all know how endorphins can lift one’s spirits, but even if one isn’t exerting oneself to the extreme, one can really benefit from a slight uptick in activity that generates these natural pick-me-ups.  In fact, one’s brain may begin to associate endorphin-generated good feelings with being outside.  The better one feels about being outside, the more one is likely to want to be outside, creating a positive feedback loop.

Sometimes getting out of one’s shell is sufficient in itself.  Getting outside takes courage for some, but the simple act of breaking habits of staying indoors is liberating in itself.

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Speaking of breaking habits, a common habit we all face in first-world countries is the obsession with screens.  With the advent of mobile devices and smaller computers, we are nearly constantly on screen time.  While this is supposed to make us more connected with each other, more productive, and happier, in reality screen time does just the opposite.  Despite these negative effects, screen time is a strong drug that we are easily addicted to.  By reducing the amount of screen time by being outdoors, we temper the addiction and get away from the constant stream of news, social life, work, and mindless interruptions.

Lastly, humans are made to be outside.  Our natural habitat is the outside environment, not the indoors.  We evolved to survive outside, and while technology as simple as housing and plumbing are essential to our lives nowadays, being at home with the world that our ancestors grew in–the world that made us the species we are today, can give us a sense of purpose and fulfillment by the very nature of being in nature.

What do you think?  Does this make sense?

Be well,

Dan

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