As we get older, spending more time in nature makes us happier and healthier – Share Sunshine Life


Spending time in nature is key to early childhood development – but the benefits of fresh air and unrestricted time spent outdoors don’t stop when you leave elementary school. The physical health benefits and brain-enhancing effects also contribute to a healthier aging process: Research trends suggest that milder climates that allow residents to spend time outdoors year-round may be associated with better health inside in the winter or hot in the summer than those that force residents to spend time in colder climates.

Time spent outdoors is associated with better physical and mental health – at every age. Dr. Philip Junglas of the Cleveland Clinic says that although the body reaches its physical peak in the mid-30s, “moving – [by] the widely known 10,000 steps or doing 150 minutes of moderate activity per week – -to solve problems and overall satisfaction seems to mitigate the effects of aging.” He affirms that all of these benefits can be gained by getting out of the house. “People of any age can benefit from staying outdoors,” says Dr. Junglas, “if we’re open to it.” Next, learn more about why getting into nature as you age is beneficial – and discover several ways to increase your time outdoors as the years go by.

Related: 5 Parts of a Daily Routine You Should Be Doing Outside, Not Inside

More exercise and stimulation
In its simplest form, going outside usually requires moving and using the senses in a more diverse way than is needed inside,” says Dr. Junglas, who notes that being in nature provides much-needed variety in the landscape. “Going outside often provides different movements, such as more walking, or changing one’s gaze from near to far – and provides multiple [sensory] inputs that may be more extensive than those found within an apartment, house or workplace.”

Increasing problem-solving skills
The outside world is always changing – and those changes happen every day, Dr. Junglas notes. When you’re outdoors, “the brain subconsciously sifts to make sense of your surroundings,” Dr. Junglas says-maybe you notice a flowering tree, an unfamiliar bird call, or your neighbor’s shed being painted. “The brain uses these experiences to improve its understanding of everyday life and its ability to solve problems. This improves the overall functioning of the body, mind and emotions.”

Positive Emotional Shifts
Dr. Junglas notes that when the brain processes our surroundings, it becomes distracted from the difficulties. “This helps take attention away from our emotional feelings and can improve states of well-being without changing our stressors,” he adds, noting that what we do when we are outside is also important. “What if a person is growing plants or tending to animals? Outside activities? These simple gratifications can also improve mood.”

How to increase time spent outdoors as we age
As we age, a variety of obstacles can prevent us from spending time outdoors: work schedules, childcare or physical ailments that make rugged terrain or extreme temperatures unpleasant. working with a physical therapist to mitigate the effects of age-related illnesses can help, says Dr. Junglas; so can investing in the right weatherproof gear, from sturdy rain jackets to heated gloves Or create places of interest in your yard – like a bird feeder or butterfly garden – to make sitting outside more enjoyable. To make sure you can get outside, make these moments routine. All the choices that are good for you become easier when you are consistent in your choices. “I tell my patients that the body has about 48 hours of routine memory,” Dr. Junglas says. “If a person can get out at least every other day, it becomes a habit that makes us feel good.”

Be conscious, too. Paying attention to the world around you can even make your daily walk to the mailbox or your morning commute more beneficial. “If the time is well thought out, the timing doesn’t have to be consistent,” notes Dr. Junglas. “Take some time to look around and see your surroundings.” Finally, make it your own. You don’t have to enjoy hiking, bird watching or picnicking; find your own external pleasures. “A goal-oriented life sometimes doesn’t make room for the subtle satisfaction found on a walk outdoors in the park,” says Dr. Junglas. “Satisfaction can come from walking, sitting, talking or watching anywhere! To know what you like, you may need to try things like walking in the park, planting flowers, taking a walk or playing with pets or children.

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