Get Outside to Save the World in 2018

by - Tuesday, January 02, 2018

So many people are waking up to the challenges our planet is facing, but it can be hard to know where to start. To kick off 2018, I am suggesting all sorts of

two toddlers playing outside in the woods

How It's Good for You


It is well-proven that spending our time outside is one of the healthiest things we all aren't doing. This article breaks down the benefits pretty well, but here are some boiling points:
 - Nature can help us restore our mental and physical energy. It's proven to be especially good for easing depression.
- It boosts our immune system, upholds our eyesight, can reduce inflammation, and might even prevent cancer according to this article.
- Time in nature reduces stress and increases short term memory and creative thinking.
- Nature makes us happier- the same activities done outdoors makes us happier than doing them inside.


For goodness sake,  is there anything that being in nature doesn't do?


That's the good news. The bad news is that our generation is less outdoorsy than any in history. We spend too much time on screens, in urbanized spaces, and not enough outside and in the wild. You know the schtick. We all know we SHOULD go outside more, but it certainly shook me to see just how extensive and awesome the benefits are.

We also know that being outside is even more important for children. The effects of being outside greatly benefit their brain development and has shown to be helpful to kids with ADHD and other attention problems.

I am currently reading the EXCELLENT How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott Samson. I think it should be required reading for every parent, as it shows just how important nature and unstructured time are for kids. Plus, his chapters on how to mentor are just so good. If you are a parent, read this book. I will happily lend it to you if you are nearby. But the key point is that getting kids out into nature is as simple as using local natural spaces and engaging with nature ourselves.

Now, in all honesty, I may be the world's least outdoorsy environmentalist. I have never been an animal lover (I don't hate them, but I don't really get the big deal. I like things that can talk). I have never felt any sublime peace looking at a leaf or a tree- I would rather observe in an art museum. I find relaxing and quiet times very stressful (hence, writing an informational blog as my hobby). I grew up in the country, but I just saw the outside as the space to stage my imaginary tales. I do LOVE to garden, weirdly enough (haha! Unweed this garden, chaos monster toddlers! Suck it entropy machines, some order you cannot destroy!), but I am certainly not the poster child for enjoying the great outdoors.

 I say this because I want you to believe that you don't have to be Gaia earth mother to get something out of time outside. Investing that time will make you better at your job, happier, and even improve your brain function! Literally you could be a superhuman if you would just get outside. We are all superheroes waiting to happen.

a serene river

Why It Is Good for the Earth


Ok, yeah going outside is (REALLY) good for us, but how could I rank it up there with refusing plastic or eating less beef?

It's hard to save something you don't love. Don't believe me? Ask every superhero ever why they have to have some curvy lady watching when they blow things up (for humanity's sake). Love is an essential part of what motivates us. Getting out into nature, taking hikes, growing food, even just sitting and listening to the birds sing can deepen our appreciation for nature.

And not just the nature that is the rain forests, or glaciers in the arctic, or the ocean at sunset. Not just the nature that is far away, that we only see in pictures. But the nature we live in, that we pass everyday, the nature that we are.

We can all suffer from the false belief that nature is out there somewhere, so when we throw things away, we can falsly assume that an "away" even exists. When we shop for virgin tree toilet paper, we don't have to face how long it took to grow the tree we are wiping our butt with.

Much like our intentional ignorance around unethical labor, our alienation from nature basically gives us permission to ignore our guilt in mistreating the Earth ad other people. It doesn't mean we aren't responsible for this mistreatment, and I think ignoring it (so we can just keep on doing what we want to do) is rotting us from the inside (especially in the Christian church).

So getting out there and really connecting with nature so we feel responsible for it again takes courage, but we NEED to do it if we want to do right by the Earth and future generations.

two girls playing in a river


How to Get to It


30 Minutes a Day of... Anything Outside


We tend to think of being in nature as something we GO to do (like get in the car and drive to, take a long flight, etc), but you live in nature right now, you just have to find it.

 Please, please get out there and visit national parks this year (they certainly need our help more than ever), but think smaller too. You aren't as far from nature as you think. Just head outside everyday or 5 or 3 days a week (what you can keep up with is best). Plant something. Read, even if you are cold. Just rant about how cold it is for 20 minutes and then drag your achey joints inside. Just start living more of your life intentionally outdoors. Walk your dog.

If you are creative, you could go out and sketch. Keep a journal. Make connecting a priority.

a small family garden in a raised box

Grow Something


For me, starting a garden turned out to really help me connect with nature. I like having something to do, so I am always ready to run off five minutes into a beach day. But growing something turns out to be really great. We grow some of our own food now, but if you didn't have a lot of space, you could just have a herb garden.


 Get to Know your Parks and Woods


You could try making a list of the State or National parks that are near you, maybe that you always mean to go to but never quite make it there, and go on 10 exploration adventures this year. This could be such a fun challenge!

a mom and toddler playing outside

Commit to a Time


Go for a walk every day on your lunch break. Go outside for half an hour every night after dinner, regardless of your weather. Sometimes it is as simple as committing to a particular time, because it is easy enough to put it off another day.

Another way to do this might be to sign up for a retreat. I know our church does them, but you can find all sorts of retreats out there.

a plant still growing in winter


Join a Group or Program


Joining groups can help you get started and meet other people out to breathe in a little more outdoorsiness. For parents, I love Hike it Baby, which has groups all over the country. So many outdoor groups are already out there, and if you are a socially-motivated person, it might be a great way to get your feet wet.

Rewilding is another program that I have seen raves for. This 30 day program helps you unplug and refocus. Could be perfect for you!

Make some Money, Build some Muscle


Feel like you just can't find the time? Why not kill two birds with one stone (figuratively! You are a bird lover now, right?)? If you are short on cash, why not sign up to be a dog walker. You can make money, get exercise, and spend time outdoors.

Other switches? Stop going to the gym and go for runs outside (saves you money too, but then you have to run, which sounds terrible). Walk instead of taking public transit.


Want to Go Bigger? 


Maybe you already spend a lot of time outdoors- awesome! Turn that love into action by supporting the organizations that are fighting to protect the outdoors like the Sierra Club or The Wilderness Society. Check out what is local to your area and take care of the natural world where you live. Even better, volunteer for regreening or highway cleaning or anything else that takes care of the nature you are in. So important- you can make a huge difference!

go outside to save the world in 2018

Want to make some little changes to save the world? You can do it and this blog will be here with helpful ideas all year long. Check out the previous two blogs- Eating Less Meat and Living Locally for more inspiration for 2018!

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2 comments

  1. I love being outdoors and definitely agree with you and the various studies that show it truly improves your mood and quality of life

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this! Being outdoors is absolutely vital for our beings

    ReplyDelete