Spending Time Outdoors Improves Health
At Discovery Ranch for Girls, we believe that spending time outdoors is an important factor in helping our girls. With over sixty acres of space, Discovery Ranch for Girls campus provides many opportunities for our girls to enjoy the benefits of being outside. We have stables, an outdoor riding arena, putting green, waterfall, and a man-made pond stocked with native fish. We also take our girls off campus for outdoor activities. In the spring, summer, and fall, students can participate in hiking, rock climbing, canyoneering, and water sports. In the winter, students can participate in snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, skiing, and winter survival activities.
One of our main reasons for having outdoor activities is to aid the experiential learning of our students. Experiential learning uses experiences, including environmental factors and emotions, in the therapy process. We engage our girls in activities with a specific clinical outcome planned. Through experiential learning, our girls can see abstract therapeutic concepts in a more understandable and meaningful way. Experiential opportunities allow each girl to truly connect with those around her, her environment, and herself.
Experiential learning aside, the outdoors is still a great resource for helping our girls. There are many health benefits for spending time outside. In this blog post we’ll discuss some of these benefits.
Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because our body creates vitamin D when sunlight hits our skin. Despite the name, vitamin D is actually considered a pro-hormone and not a vitamin. Either way, vitamin D helps our body in many ways, including:
- Maintaining bones and teeth
- Supporting the immune system, brain, and nervous system
- Regulating insulin levels and helping diabetes management
- Supporting lung function and cardiovascular health
- Influencing the expression of genes involved in cancer development
By spending time outside, we can maximize the benefits that come from vitamin D.
Social media, ads, texts, and other distractions are constantly pulling at our attention. As our attention is pulled in different directions, our attention span shortens and we have a harder time focusing. By going outdoors, we eliminate these distractions. The only thing demanding our attention outside is the beautiful scenery and the people around us. The more time we spend with these simple attention tasks, the better we get at concentrating on one thing at a time. When we return to our busy lifestyles after spending time in nature, our minds are better able to focus.
Spending time outside makes people happier. Light elevates people’s mood, and the natural light of the outdoors can’t compete with artificial light indoors. Being outside also encourages physical activity, which releases endorphins. Research shows that walking in nature can significantly lower depression, perceived stress, and negative affect while enhancing positive affect and mental well-being.
As spending time in nature improves our emotional and mental abilities, our creativity can flourish. In nature, we are free from distractions and can focus on the quiet sounds of nature. This allows our minds to wander freely and to think more deeply. Additionally, natural beauty elicits feelings of awe. These feelings of awe can spark and inspire our imagination.