When I was younger, like most children, my parents had to cull me away from the endless thrills of the front and backyard to get me inside. I would protest and plead, beg for just five more minutes, unable to peel away from the adventures around me.
The outdoors is our healing agent; it is the fortress of mother nature, and it is where most of us find our rawest happiness and joy.
Everyone knows that we spend too much time cooped up behind our screens, transfixed in our electronics, relatively detached from the world around us. Research continues to highlight that, despite being more connected than ever before, we are also reporting higher rates of depression, loneliness, and insecurity. Technology, while extraordinary (as I type this out on my computer), has its dark sides- and its pull away from our beautiful outdoors is one of them.
I’m a therapist, which means I work with all kinds of people struggling with various mental illnesses. Debilitating substance addiction, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD– you name it, and I’ve probably treated it.
Going outdoors isn’t a magical cure- nothing in mental health ever is- but I notice a shift in my clients’ perspectives when they’ve spent considerable time in the world around them. Whether it’s describing an afternoon at the beach, a difficult mountain hike, or even just eating lunch on an outdoor patio, there’s something that changes when people are receiving their natural doses of Vitamin D.
They experience more happiness– a quieter, but fulfilling, sense of lightness and freedom. There is the opportunity for awe, for getting lost in the sights of the sky touching the sea or the wind chilling on the face. There’s an engagement within the five senses- one that’s as automatic and organic as this planet itself.
The outdoors is our teacher, and it’s also our equalizer. In Mother Nature, we are all just the Earth’s children, just running around and exploring and humbled by the features of this planet larger than us (and therefore nearly larger than life). I’m talking about the awe of mountains and trees and the way the grass feels on a perfect summer day. I’m talking about what it feels like capturing the perfect wave while surfing or finishing that rock climb or scaling that mountain that once seemed so daunting. I’m talking about freedom and joy- in the purest sense of those terms.