Being outdoors generally means getting exercise and becoming untethered from electronic devices that cause us to be sedentary creatures of the great indoors. Because trees and plants pull pollutants into their leaves and release fresh air, there is truth to the idea that going outside and “getting a breath of fresh air” makes us feel better.
More recently, though, one study links sunlight and its physiological by-products—including vitamin D—with everything from cancer prevention to improved sports performance to weight loss. The alarmist notion that one should never be exposed to a solitary ray of sun without sunblock has been dispelled. Refer to your health resources to find out how to welcome sunshine back into your life.
Other studies target the effects of nature on the brain. People who live in cities without access to green spaces have a higher risk for anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centers, or even those city dwellers who do spend time in parks or other natural areas. Brain scans support the theory that people walking in nature spend less time thinking negative thoughts than those walking amid the urban jungle.
About the Author
Elizabeth G Fagan is a writer and artist who resides on Lake Michigan’s shoreline in southeastern Wisconsin—a place she calls Lake Michigan’s Left Coast.
* Fagan wrote the monthly column “Green Talk” for the News Graphic in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. This essay is from the column’s archives.
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