The Bountiful Health Benefits of Being Outside

Woman Examining Leaves On Plant During Countryside Walk

Key Points

  • Nature helps me in many ways, and it can do the same for you.

  • There are many benefits to being outside, like reconnecting with your loved ones.

  • The best experiences are often found in life's simplicity.

Time spent in nature allows me to move, nourish, refresh, and connect. As a living, breathing human, I want a brain that isn't fuzzy, a body that functions normally, and a heart that beats effortlessly.

Being outdoors isn't a panacea, but in my quest for healthy equanimity, it's certainly been a step in the right direction.

I just feel good after being outside. No feeling beats laying down for a nap after a five-hour hike. I've earned that slumber. My mind is flowing with the feel-good hormones that come from exercise, and my body courses with vitamin D from exposure to the sun.

It's hard to feel bad about myself.

All sorts of hucksters claim to hold the secret to a life well lived — and for a mere $50 a month billed annually, you can too! Hogwash. They're full of bologna.

Younger me lined a few of these bums' pockets, so desirous was I for contentment. Then I realized: You know what doesn't require a subscription and try to peddle me their useless wares? Mother Nature.

The outdoors is open to everyone and is cheap if done correctly. Plus, science has a lot to say about the benefits of being outside.

Here's how being outside helps me.

girl standing on a rock with green nature view


Chronic stress brings a range of health issues: anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, muscle tension, heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke. Too much stress and it's "hello darkness, my old friend."

CBS News Minnesota chronicles the positive traits of the outdoors in a May 1, 2023, report to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month.

Being outside is a natural de-stresser.

Stepping away from civilization reduces stress indicators like cortisol levels. Even a one-night trip in the forest is enough to relax.

I feel my angst wash away when I head for the boonies. The chirping birds, the wind gently whooshing through the trees, and a quiet night with no social media carry a low cost and a high increase in my feelings of peace.

Strengthens Relationships

Huddling around a campfire, making s'mores, and sharing ghost stories with no cell phone in sight and nobody glued to various social media sites work wonders for reducing stress levels.

What a world. Some of my fondest memories with my friends and family are from camping trips.

There are many times when I've felt disconnected from the people most important to me. This isn't anybody's fault. Life just gets in the way of living.

When this chasm grows to uncomfortable levels, I invite my loved ones on a camping trip.

Nature reboots relationships. Camping offers avenues for socializing, increased quality time, and opportunities to problem-solve together.

Building campfires, cooking meals, setting up camp, and stargazing are unique chances to practice teamwork, improve communication, and develop relationships.

Quality Sleep

I don't know why, but I always sleep like a contented cat when I'm outside. Perhaps it's because there are no neighbors around, making so much noise it sounds like they're hosting the Daytona 500 in their kitchen.

A big reason is probably due to realigning my sleep pattern with the cycles of nature. When camping, I go to bed when I'm tired, not when I've finished watching my 20th YouTube video at 3 a.m. I wake up naturally from sunlight, not from the blaring alarm clock that almost sends me into cardiac arrest.

Sleep deprivation kills, contributing to seven of the top 15 causes of death. I, for one, enjoy not being dead and plan to continue to do so for as long as possible.

Consistent, quality sleep isn't the elixir of immortality, but it certainly contributes to a healthy life. No place offers a soulful slumber quite like the outdoors.

Unplug from Technology

Technology is great. I love refrigerators and air-conditioning. In many ways, technology has gotten out of hand.

Example numero uno is social media. Reams of studies show the negative consequences of too much social media exposure: mental health issues, cyberbullying, exploitation of your data, and its addictive qualities.

But hey! At least I'm able to keep up with that random person I met in the Minneapolis airport four years ago, right?

Plenty of places on this planet don't have service, forcing me to set down my cellular device and engage with the world.

Nothing is more frightening than seeing the total daily screen time numbers for your smartphone. I thought I put in one or two hours of screen time daily. Nope. At my worst, I put a daily average of six hours and 43 minutes into my phone. That's almost a full shift's worth of wasted time.

A few years back, I went on a week-long camping extravaganza with some comrades from college. There was no cell phone service. Over those seven days, I averaged 15 minutes a day on my phone. That's only because one day, I used my phone for a quarter-hour trying to film a grizzly bear we saw.

It's essential to disconnect from technology, especially the devices that cause harm if overused. I'm not saying leave your EpiPen at home, but just taper off the Twitter for a few days.

Connect with Nature

My favorite book, Larry McMurty's Lonesome Dove, has this line from the character Deets, as he contemplates life while staring at the stars.

"He had known several men who blew their heads off, and he had pondered it much. It seemed to him it was probably because they could not take enough happiness just from the sky and the moon to carry them over the low feelings that came to all men."

The low feelings have struck me many times in life. There have been points where I'm so down I forget what happiness feels like. Going out into the woods and absorbing the ebbs and flows of nature reconnects me with myself and administers the extra kick I need to get through the darkness.

woman outdoors enjoying sunshine with her eyes closed

Nothing Beats Camping

Camping is just plain fun.

West Virginia poet Doug Van Gundy says camping "is a chance to live simply and purely, to reset and reconnect with nature."

Simple and pure. Whether sitting around a campfire, gazing at the stars, or exploring the beauty of the wilderness, camping offers me a chance to reset and rejuvenate my spirit while forging a deeper connection with the natural world. It's a reminder that the most fulfilling experiences are often in life's simplicity.

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