Breathe in; breathe out


Lauren Batterbee

These are some woods I love to look at when I am stressed

I walked outside today. Not to get into a car or a building, and not to be distracted by the thoughts in my head or the world around me. 

I walked outside and actually took a deep breath in and out. The world seemed to slow down as the snow fell softly around me. Memories flooded back, not only of times when I have sat outside and watched the snowfall, but also of times I associate with that, like inspiration from my fifth and sixth grade teachers. 

I took a deep breath and—despite the surrounding frigid air—I felt the warmth of relaxation as the freezing ice of stress left my body. Instead of all of the items on my to-do list blurring together, I took a pause, and the activities sorted themselves out. Before I went back inside, I took another look around, another in and out, and I was ready to be more productive than I had been in a while. 

I am not alone in this burst of productivity after even the smallest break in nature. According to Kirsten Weir from the American Psychological Association (APA), both experiments and observational studies lead to better cognitive abilities and more happiness in general. 

Though scientists don’t quite know the reason for this serotonin, they do know that even the smallest break from the man-made world leads to increased productivity—whether that be going outside, looking at the natural world, or even hearing natural sounds. 

Whenever someone feels overwhelmed, they should try to find time to connect in some way with nature. If they are feeling especially stressed, or if they find an hour or more of extra time in their busy schedule, they should make their way on a longer excursion to the natural world. APA found that the more biodiverse the natural environment someone is in, the more relaxed they will become. 

Even the smallest break from the man-made world leads to increased productivity.

With more biodiversity, people can more easily take their minds off of whatever there is to fret about. They can take more of nature in and notice the little details. They can exercise all five senses and just relax among the beauty of it all. 

Not only will they be relaxing, but they may notice things while in nature that could teach them a valuable lesson, either from the natural world and its interactions or in their own learning and discovery. Even something as simple and cliché as learning to take time to smell the roses can be helpful.

So whether in a worried state or in the mood for relaxation, go outside for the sake of being outside. No other motives are necessary. Just go outside and pause for long enough to take in the beauty that surrounds you. 

Breathe in. 

Breathe out.