The first official day of summer isn’t here just yet, but the season certainly feels like it’s in full swing. With summer vacation here, we have two choices: either stay inside all day or get outside and enjoy some sunshine.
We spend approximately 93% of our time indoors and about 10 hours per day on screens. It’s estimated that by 2050, 75% of the world’s population will live in cities (US Environmental Protection Agency). This means that stress, anxiety and other mental health problems will only worsen if we don’t do something about them. (Not that we really needed to tell you that extended screen time and indoor time wasn’t good for you.)
We live in a modern world that promotes staying inside and playing on screens when what our bodies really need is stimulation from the rich, diverse ecosystems and life-forms. Our nervous systems were created alongside nature and made to be in harmony with it.
Job 12:7-10 says, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
So, where is the hope?
Nature is the antidote. In Genesis, we see God taking great care creating each piece of nature and calling everything good. He created each part of nature for your enjoyment and for his glory. When we take time to reflect on the goodness of God and his creation, it helps us to slow down and be present, to shift our perspectives, and to calm our minds and bodies. It has been proven that regular contact with nature improves mood, self regulation, self esteem and self discipline. It moves the body from a state of stress to a state of relaxation.
By the afternoon, you might notice fatigue and exhaustion setting in. Mental fatigue and concentration can be improved by simply going outside. Your brain needs to see natural green and blue spaces. Outdoor settings are easier for our brains to comprehend, and therefore find it more relaxing.
So, what can you do practically?
Make it a habit to go outside for at least 20 minutes per day, and at least 2-3 hours per week. Just five hours outside per month has been proven to reduce depression! Allow yourself to become curious and mindful in nature, and give yourself the gift of awe and wonder. This is when we are able to get out of our own head and experience something greater than ourselves. This is a spiritual experience – the ability to look out on God’s creation and know that he exists.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes: “There is no wifi in the forest, but I promise, you will find a better connection.”