Why Every 20-Something Should Challenge Themselves to Get Outside More

There’s a parenting movement making the rounds on Instagram that I honestly wish I had known about long before I started having kids. I’ve come across two hashtags challenging parents to get their kids outside more. #Outside365 encourages parents to get their kids out of the house every single day, no matter the weather while #1000HoursOutside challenges parents to clock 1000 hours of outdoor time for their kids in a calendar.

That’s a lot of outdoor time, and there are many reasons why that’s a good idea for kids, but I’d argue that it’s almost as important for 20-somethings to spend a ton of time outside, too.

Why #Outside365 for everyone?

Our 20s are a huge time of change. Most of us are still settling into a career, we’re living on our own, and navigating new or changing relationships. For some, all of the transition and adjustment to a new season of life is overwhelming. For many, we’re busier than we’ve ever been and doing the things that help us feel grounded is difficult to prioritize. This is exactly why I believe that opting to spend more time outdoors is essential at our age.

Unfortunately, as we move into adulthood we start to leave play behind. Too often that means we’re spending less time outside and more time at a desk. But spending time in nature has major benefits for our wellbeing, like decreased anxiety and improved memory, as observed in a study published in Landscape and Urban Planning when participants spent 50 minutes walking outdoors. In fact, just being near trees can improve the symptoms of depression, according to a study published in The Journal of Affective Disorders. Amazingly, there is also research that indicates that exercise in nature isn’t just better for your mood, it results in more physiological improvements (like lowering blood pressure) than indoor or exercise in an urban environment. I know that, no matter what the weather is like, a few minutes outdoors helps me feel calm. And if the sun is out, a walk around my neighborhood can completely reset my day and my attitude.

Squeezing more nature into busy days

For most 20-somethings with full-time jobs, spending 1,000 hours outside is an impossible task. That doesn’t mean we should give up on getting more green-therapy in when we can.

There are a few different ways you can squeeze more nature into busy days, starting with incorporating it into your set routine. If you’re lucky enough to have green space near your office, find a bench and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air while you eat, even when the weather isn’t perfect. If you can walk or bike part or all of your commute, commit to making that a regular part of your routine. I have made a habit of squeezing in a quick walk when I take a lunch break on my work days. When I’m home with my kids, we start our day with a stroll around the block. It helps us all start our day on the right foot.

If your weekdays are slammed, consider spending a significant part of the weekend outdoors, whether that means taking work or studying outside, planning outdoor social events, or eating a meal or two al fresco.

Gardening is a great way to motivate yourself to step into your backyard every day. Our home is rental, so we’re subject to the rules of a landlord, but we’ve learned a lot about container gardening over the last year we’ve been here. Our garden this spring will be simple: tomatoes, greens, and herbs in planters on the back deck, and caring for our plants is routine I’m looking forward to when warm weather arrives. Potted plants also give you the chance to bring nature inside when you can’t make it out, and make a cheerful addition to the workspace or home office.

Lastly, I think it’s important that we’re mindful of how we exist in nature. Our generation is prone to constant connection, which can distract from the renewing nature of time outdoors. Put away your phone, notice the world around you, and enjoy a break from your fast-paced life.

Originally published on April 23, 2019.

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