I've always been a nonstop happiness seeker, even on my worst days, I really try hard to find a positive. I'm the type that on long drives, I don't ask my husband, "Are we there yet?" I meditate on life and ask myself, "what can I do to make life better, more fun, more meaningful, more exciting".
Yep. That's me. I'm forever trying to top up my glass, a glass half full is not my style and I love my glass to be mixed like a cocktail, shaken not stirred, with lots of fun, adventure and experiences.
As an adventurous type, often the answers to my questions are related to spending more time in nature, travelling, new adventures, challenging myself in the outdoors and expanding my knowledge of every corner of the world and its inhabitants.
Since today is the International Day of Happiness I wanted to explore a little why current research suggests our relationship with adventure, active experiences and nature may be deeply linked to our happiness and why spending more time outdoors may be the simplest, healthiest, and most economical remedy for increased happiness.
So do we have a serious shot at becoming happier through adventure? Yes, say researchers, who've found new scientific evidence of why outdoors really boosts our moods. Whether you enjoy biking, surfing, trekking, skiing or any other outdoor activity, adventure offers you a way to focus completely on yourself for a few hours, days or weeks, if you are really lucky, without external distractions. Other studies suggest that the very presence of nature helps to ward off feelings of exhaustion.
What you might not realize is that through adventure, travelling, getting outdoors and spending more time with nature you are more likely to live a longer, healthier life. Plus do it regularly and you’ll enjoy dozens of significant health benefits on a regular basis from the following :
1. Breathing Fresh Air
That feeling of happiness that you get when you take your first breath of air in the forest or in the mountains it isn’t all in your head–well, technically it is, but it’s a release of serotonin from the extra oxygen. Your body can function with less strain when there’s plenty of oxygen.
That’s not the only benefit of fresh air. Research shows that some time outdoors can improve your blood pressure, improve digestion and give your immune system an extra boost. When you spend a few days outside, you get some serious health benefits from the extra oxygen and low levels of pollutants.
Adventure and travelling alone is plenty of fun, but if you bring along friends you’ll enjoy a unique experience together that will help you keep a healthy, happy relationship.
Socialising can extend your lifespan and delay memory problems according to research published in the American Journal of Public Health, and apart from the medical benefits, a few close relationships make life more fun. So invite a few friends on your next trip out.
3. Improving Your Mood
Regular adventurers will often talk about how the first few days back from their trip they seem happier. This isn’t without merit; spending some time outside in the sunlight can even out the levels of melatonin in your brain.
Melatonin is the chemical that makes you feel tired and can induce feelings of depression, so by getting outside often you can enjoy better overall moods both during and after your trip.
4. Becoming Less Stressed
Nature also allows you to cope with stress. Stress can negatively affect your health in just about every way possible, and you’re putting much less strain on your mental and physical faculties by giving yourself some stress-free time outdoors.
The lack of stress is related to the rise in oxygen levels, higher levels of serotonin and managed levels of melatonin mentioned above. There’s also an emotional component at work here, since it’s harder to be annoyed or angry when you’re doing something that you enjoy.
5. Exercising Outdoors
Let’s not forget the most obvious benefit of being active in the outdoors: you’re spending a lot of time performing physical activities. Even if you’re strolling just taking in the sites, you’re burning more calories than you’d burn sitting around an office, and if you hike, paddle, bike, you’re performing cardiovascular exercise that will help keep your heart and lungs healthy.
6. Increasing Time In Sunshine
Sunshine feels great on your skin, and there’s an evolutionary reason for that. When you’re out in direct sunlight, you’re taking on Vitamin D, which allows your body to absorb calcium and phosphorous. Slip Slop Slap though, 20mins is all that is needed daily.
7. A Good Night’s Sleep
Us outdoorsy types know you fall fast asleep (often anywhere- plenty of stories here) after a day full of outdoor activities. Sleep has an effect on all of your body processes and can reduce inflammation and improve your recovery, mood and coping mechanisms. Many adventurers report better sleep cycles when they return from a trip.
8. Healthy Eating Habits
There's something about being outdoors that encourages a more natural diet, especially if you’re fond of fishing, camping and cycling around your local markets on a Saturday. You are more likely to eat a larger amount of protein and healthy fats and you won’t get the preservatives or unnatural ingredients in a fresh lake-caught fish. Plus all of the exercise, better sleep and enjoyment of eating over a campfire will help you digest.
9. Pushing Your Boundaries
No two adventures are exactly the same, and that’s a good thing. Studies from the University of Texas and University of Michigan show that new experiences help to keep brains healthy.
New activities and challenges that are both physically and intellectually stimulating have the greatest effect on brain health, and travel and active adventures fit both of these criteria.
When you go outdoors, don’t forget to turn off your phone. Try to disconnect for a few hours/days and enjoy the simplicity of the natural experience.
This isn’t just a general tip to help you enjoy the experience; if you’re willing to enjoy your surroundings without any outside distractions, you could increase your lifespan.
The Mayo Clinic reports that meditation may improve a number of serious medical conditions by increasing self awareness and giving a person stress-reduction tools. If you suffer from depression, fatigue, heart disease or even allergies, research shows that the outdoors can improve your overall health.
Just don’t forget to commit to the experience–if your cell phone’s off, you’re on your way to developing a stimulating, tranquil meditative time that will keep you healthy for years to come.
So here's cheers 🍹 to getting out there adventuring and enjoying its benefits.