Step outside and feel better for it…

Summer is officially over and we’re moving into shorter days, dark mornings and colder temperatures. As a result, we often decide to spend more time inside.We might be warmer, but reducing the time we’re outside means that our Vitamin D intake decreases. We get irritable and in some cases, depression, fatigue and anxiety can easily creep in (otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder).

At work, I’m one of those guilty souls who frequently works through lunch. In fact, a lot of us are so busy that it’s quite a common occurrence. But having suffered from an increase in headaches and tiredness as a result of so much screen time, I’ve tried hard to take a break every now and again. And more often than not, that involves taking some fresh air.

Do I feel better?

Is that even a question?!

On the days that I managed to take some fresh air – whether that was standing outside for a few minutes and having a chat on the phone, going for a walk round the block, or actually eating lunch outside – I returned to work feeling brighter, more alert, more focused and with, crucially, no headache. I felt happier and I’m adamant that I was actually more productive that afternoon.Compare this to a day when, out of sheer panic at how much I had to do, I remained at my desk all day, only leaving to get a drink or pop to the toilet. I felt drained at the end of the day and, if I’m honest, by 3pm I couldn’t quite settle on one task without getting distracted by another. Yes I got lots done but mentally, I wasn’t as focused and alert.

At the weekend, I always end up going for a walk along the beach with Bailey and it works wonders to clear my mind, boost my mood and set me up for the day ahead.

Fresh air helps. So when you’re in the city or stuck in an office environment, it’s crucial that you get some fresh air, even just for 10 minutes, to clear your mind and refocus.Fresh air is good for you for many reasons. Here’s why you should take the time to step outside once in a while.

1. Spending time outside can have a calming effect. In the article This is Your Brain on Nature, David Strayer, a psychologist at the University of Utah, wrote ‘when we slow down, stop the busy work, and take in beautiful natural surroundings, not only do we feel restored, but our mental performance improves too’(Source: Cravemate.com) I agree wholeheartedly. Find a space to walk – preferably somewhere slightly scenic – and breath. Slow down, try to switch off and take note of your surroundings and when you return to work, you can refocus and feel sharper.

There’s been a lot in the media about mindfulness recently and there are so many books, websites, apps and even courses available to help you practice this. But the essence is basically to take note of your surroundings and be in the moment. For anyone who’s feeling stressed or overwhelmed, simply going for a walk and paying attention to what is around you can work wonders at calming you down.

2. Being outside can boost your mood. This is also something that has been in the media a lot recently. We’re not getting enough Vitamin D! A holiday somewhere sunny usually boosts your mood right? You’ve removed yourself from your daily routine, you’re experiencing something new and you are spending more time outside soaking up the sun’s rays. This all means that your mood improves and you feel happier.Vitamin D is so vital in this mood boost, helping you to feel happy and refreshed. The sunshine vitamin also helps regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorous (aiding growth and development of bones and teeth) and facilitates a normal immune system function (meaning improved resistance against certain diseases).If you con’t get enough Vitamin D, you can feel more tired, experience more aches and pains and event (at an extreme level) fall foul of stress fractures on the lower half of your body.So what are you waiting for? Get outside and make the most of it.

3. Being outside can boost your creativity. I know. Who’d have thought it? Being outside and exercising (a gentle stroll counts) has actually been found to boost creative thinking. Researchers at Stanford University found that walking opens up a free flow of ideas and the movement combined with the fresh air can help you think differently.Whether you knew any of the above or not doesn’t matter. Taking a break has always been deemed to be important. Think of Kit Kat’s – their whole marketing campaign is based on the fact that people need to take breaks.

4. It gives you the chance to increase your exercise level.Working in an office is often quite sedentary. If you make yourself get outside more, you’re more likely to exercise more. You don’t have to become a lunchtime jogger or anything – just increase your daily step intake while you’re making the most of the outside world. I’m a firm believer that exercise is a huge mood booster and when you do it outside, well, you’re laughing.

Get outside. Take a breath and let your mind be calm. You’ll feel better for it, trust me.

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