Four benefits of being outdoors

I love the outdoors! Fresh air, trees and endless activities to keep you busy and having fun make the outdoors the perfect place to relax and unwind. There are also many health and well-being perks to spending time in the outdoors. Keep reading to learn four benefits of being outdoors.

Nature’s strength help me through cancer treatment

Giving thanks for nature’s strength and ability to weather so much.

When I was 21, I went through 13 months of chemotherapy to clear osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. Every treatment was inpatient hospital, meaning I was often in the hospital for four or more days getting IV chemotherapy. The chemo took a big toll on my body – my immune system was often suppressed and I received over 30 pints of blood by the time I finished treatment. After one particularly difficult treatment, I ended up in the hospital for 17 days from an infection.

By day 10, I was a bit stir crazy from being in an enclosed hospital room. The windows, of course, didn’t open and I just felt restless and frustrated. So my oncologist finally offered to let me sit in the hospital gardens for a bit. I happily cried ‘Yes, please!’ And, wow, was that a perfect balm to my tired body and mind.

The nurse parked my wheelchair under a tree, near some bright flowers. And I simply sat. With my eyes closed, I listened to birds chat with each other. I felt the soft warm breeze from the summer air on my bald head. I even reached out to touch the tree trunk, feeling its steady, strong foundation. While I have always loved nature, this moment rooted me in love with the outdoors.

From then on, nature has become my ‘go to place.’ To relax, be active, calm my brain and also jumpstart many creative ideas. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed or blah about something in life, I head to a local park. It’s not too surprising that I feel comforted and refreshed when in nature. There are many health perks to being outdoors.

Here are four benefits of being outdoors:

  1. All natural energy boost: Need a pick-me-up? Being outdoors gives you an instant energy boost! Whether you’re feeling a little down or just craving joy, being outdoors will help. The fresh air invigorates your soul, the playful birds and chipmunks make you smile, and the wide-open spaces wash away stress. It’s like a daily dose of happiness, guaranteed! In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) states that “contact with nature is associated with increases in happiness, subjective well-being, positive affect, positive social interactions and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as decreases in mental distress.”
  2. Helps your health: Studies show that being in nature helps improve overall health, including cardiovascular and psychological functions. In fact, one study demonstrated that 30 minutes in nature can lower your pulse and blood pressure. Other research highlights better sleep, lower cortisol levels (stress), improved lung function and less depression/heavy moods.
  3. Natural chill pill: The outdoors is a great stress-buster. Have you ever just simply paused to listen and look when outdoors? The chirping of birds, whispering breeze, playing squirrels, and the gentle sway of trees create a calming balm for your senses. I especially love a leisurely hike through the woods or biking along a lake or river to melt away worries or stress and calm my mind.
  4. Perfect playground: Who needs a boring gym when you’ve got the great outdoors? Being active in nature is my favorite! There are so many activities, such as hiking, swimming, biking, running, kayaking and more. It’s the best place to have fun while getting a great workout!

An exciting announcement and fun challenge

I’m really excited to share that I’ve been selected as a Huron-Clinton Metroparks’ Ambassador! The Metroparks are comprised of 13 individual properties totaling almost 25,000 acres. There is SO much to do throughout the parks – hike, bike, golf, swim, fish, kayak, etc. As an ambassador, I’ll be exploring as many of the 13 parks as I can this year, checking out the fun activities and events. You can follow my exploration and adventures in the park (like playing disc golf for the first time!) on Instagram (@HeathersHangout).

Having fun hiking and finding the Trail Challenge kiosk

I also joined the Huron-Clinton Metroparks’ Trail Challenge. If you live in metro Detroit, you’ll want to check it out too. Visit as many of the parks as you can before Sept. 30 to hike, bike, run, or paddle toward a goal (that you set). Then log your miles on the online leaderboard and watch your progress. Each park also has a Trail Challenge kiosk with a park badge – snap a selfie at the kiosk and upload it to the website to earn fun incentives!

Go get your health benefits!

No matter where you live, I hope you get outdoors to visit your local parks! It’s the perfect time of year to soak up all those amazing benefits that nature has to offer and let the great outdoors become your playground of happiness!

Are you a nature lover too? Share in the comments what motivates you to get outdoors!

PS. You can get the “Nature if my therapy” shirt I’m wearing here at my online store, Today I Choose series.

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