Most of us spend the majority of our days cooped up at our desks, and we don't get to spend much time outside. However, spending time in nature can have profound health effects, and if you're inside too often, you may be exhibiting some signs that you aren't spending enough time outside. Not only does spending time outdoors usually include a little bit of exercise, but it can help calm our minds and even improve our physical health.
"Spending time outside is important as it produces natural Vitamin D and mood-enhancing hormones," says Dr. Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC over email. "Spending time outside gets us active, involved, one with our surroundings, and with others, compared to staying holed up in the house."
Getting outside doesn't always have to mean spending a whole day at the beach, as even just 15 to 20 minutes outside can have invigorating effects on the mind and body. And if you are outside, you want to make sure you're taking the proper care to protect your skin from the sun.
That being said, it's definitely not healthy to keep yourself holed up all day in fear of seeing the light. If you suspect you are staying indoors too often, consider these eight signs that you need to get outside more.
1. Your Vitamin D Is Low
If you get blood work done and your vitamin D levels are low, it's time to get outside. "Vitamin D is manufactured in your skin when exposed to sunlight," says Dr. Debra Brooks, Physician at Northwell Health—GoHealth Urgent Care. "You do not need to bake in the sun and risk cancer, but 15 minutes a day outside is a healthy way to keep your levels up, and you can't develop toxicity this way like you can from ingesting too much."
2. You're Pale Compared To Those Around You
No one's saying you need to have a tan (hello, sun protection!), but if you are particularly pasty compared to your peers, you may want to spend just 10 minutes or so outside — with sunscreen, of course. "Some amount of sun exposure can be healthy, including increased levels of vitamin D," says Dr. Larry Burchett over email.
3. You're Spending Too Much Time In Bed
We all need a TV binge-watching day here and there, but if this is becoming a regular habit, it's time to consider heading out the door. "If you would rather watch a Netflix marathon than enjoy a night out with friends, you may want to check your priorities and your healthy choices," says Martinez. "Think about what is best for you and your well being."
4. You're Anxious
If you're feeling stressed or anxious, you may want to spend a little more time in nature. "We know that sunlight has a positive effect on the serotonin neurotransmitters that restore healthy moods," says psychologist Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. over email.
5. You Feel Socially Isolated
It's easy to feel alone when you aren't getting any social interaction besides your roommates. "Being outside puts you in touch with your neighbors, dog walkers, trees, and grass," says Brooks. "We spend so much time planning ahead or looking at our pasts, both of which can produce significant anxiety. Being outside facilitates our ability to be in the present moment."
6. You Have Joint Pain
"If you are noticing more pains in general, and you have been less active, you may be able to feel better by exercising and releasing some endorphins into your bloodstream," says Burchett. Adequate vitamin D is also needed for bone health, so a lack in the nutrient can cause achiness and stiffness.
7. You Have Stomach Issues
That stomach ache may come from being too sedentary. "Gastric troubles like constipation, bloating, cramping etc. are all eased by walking in natural surroundings," says Raymond. "Nature takes your eye off the discomfort, and by synchronizing your bowel movements to that in nature, you will feel lighter, and restored to better gastric functioning."
8. You're Fatigued
"Pay attention to energy levels, both at the end of the day, and day to day," says Burchett. A series of studies from the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that being outside in nature makes people feel more alive and energetic.
Just like with other aspects of our health, there should be a healthy balance of spending time inside and outside.
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