(Photo caption: The author taking their own advice and exploring Bell Island. Photo credit Joanie Kennah)

It will likely come as no surprise to you that in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, and the stresses of grad school, going outside comes as a frequent recommendation to improve quality of life – and only more so now that we’re finally through the winter and hopefully have some nicer weather on the horizon. If you’re anything like me, this suggestion comes up more or less daily, and you have no good reason to dispute it (other than the Newfoundland climate, of course).

Despite this, I struggle to actually follow through on this guidance and break out of my introverted home-body stasis. Blame it on depression, inertia, or the risk of having to interact with a stranger, but I can never seem to actually heed my own advice to just get out of my house and go for a walk, even when I know that I’ll feel better afterwards. To that end, if you likewise know logically that time spent outdoors is good for you, but have trouble finding the motivation or follow-through to actually act upon that advice – this article is for you. Here’s a list of reasons why you should go outside whenever you can, ranging from serious to facetious:

  • It’s well documented at this point that time spent in nature has benefits for mental (and even physical!) health. You may be familiar with shinrin-yoku, the Japanese term translated as “forest bathing” – time spent in green spaces reduces blood pressure, alleviates chronic stress, and improves both anxiety and depression. I can’t argue with this science, but it’s still not enough to get me to actually partake in this form of self care.
  • Similarly well-documented, exercise is objectively good for you, and working your physical self generally leads to improvements in your psychological self as well. Time outdoors doesn’t have to equate to physical exertion – sitting in a park reading a book is still good! – but walking, hiking, cycling, all have the added bonus of some of these additional benefits.
    • I don’t put too much stock in this one, personally: a fatphobic, body-dysmorphic society can create some fraught relationships with food and exercise. Take this one with a grain of salt, and don’t feel like you’re obligated to go work out if you have dessert. Food and exercise are not moral decisions and you don’t have to “earn” anything.
  • Vitamin D is essential for our bodies to work properly. And yes, exposure to sun also poses risks. Wear sunscreen! But seeing as we’re lucky to get two sunny days in a row here in town… I’m more than happy to seize that one blue sky day to make up for all the other time I spend sitting indoors in front of my laptop.
  • The hygiene hypothesis in relation to infants and young children suggests that as kids spend more time in relatively sterilized indoor environments, their immune systems cannot learn to identify threats and subsequently rates of allergies and autoimmune disorders skyrocket. There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that exposure as an adult can improve these existing conditions… but it probably can’t hurt, right? (All of this applies to a pre-Covid world, obviously. Stay safe out there!)
  • Learning to identify local plants and birds makes you more aware of your local surroundings, and can also make you a very fun person to bring along to hikes or picnics. At least that’s what I tell myself. My friends might disagree after the tenth time I tell them what bird that is on that branch over there.
  • My knowledge of hair care is extremely limited, but I do know that people buy salt spray as a treatment for… frizz? Honestly not sure. But based on this I can only assume that if you’re spending time near the coast (aka, anywhere in town), the ocean spray coming off the water might help with your hair somehow?
  • You could see a cute dog (all dogs are cute, so this one is easy)
  • It forces you to put on real clothes that you can be seen wearing in public, as opposed to the leggings and sweater you’ve been wearing continuously for the past 72 hours where you haven’t left your house (hopefully this one isn’t just me).