Make Time To Get Outside
In 1981, my family moved from Illinois to Colorado. Being surrounded by mountains, my father who had always been a lover and strong protector of our planet, naturally became interested in climbing 14ers. The summer of 1982, I was 13 and like most teenagers, didn’t want to do anything other than spend time with my friends. I didn’t really see the appeal of hiking, but much to my chagrin, my father insisted I go backpacking with him that summer.
I begrudgingly packed my things and we headed to Durango. Once in Durango, we got on a train that stopped halfway through its route and dropped us off in the middle of the San Juan Mountains. As the train chugged on leaving us behind, my initial shock and concern of being “stranded” in the wilderness, was overshadowed by my father’s enthusiasm as he confidently lead me 6 miles uphill to the Chicago Basin which is comprised of 3 (or 4 depending on who you ask) 14ers—Sunlight, Windom, Eolus and North Eolus. Over the next few days we spent our time at the beautiful Twin Lakes, hiking Sunlight and Windom, enjoying each other’s company, and admiring the wildlife and scenery.
On the last day of our trip we decided to finally hike the largest of the peaks, Eolus and North Eolus. As we hiked Eolus and made our way to North Eolus we encountered the main ridge between the two called Sidewalk In The Sky. While it isn’t a technically difficult route, it is quite intimidating to say the least, as the narrow path is met with a several thousand foot drop on either side. The sheer vastness and beauty of Sidewalk In The Sky is what changed my life. In that moment, I found myself finally seeing what my father saw and understanding why he loved climbing 14ers, being outside and protecting our planet so much. In that moment I was able to fully appreciate and experience Earth and how truly magnificent it actually is.
That fateful five-day trip with my Father to the Chicago Basin, made me care about our planet more than ever before. The years following the Chicago Basin trip, I spent all of my time outdoors and by the time I was 18 and heading off to college I had already checked 30-some 14ers off my list. I had become an environmentalist and was constantly dreaming up ways I could help protect and preserve the mountains I was climbing, the lakes I was swimming in and the woods I would regularly hike.
Now at 52, coincidentally the same age my father was when we took our trip, I’ve accepted numerous environmental awards. With each award I’m presented, each achievement I make and each step I take towards making our planet a little greener, I always think back to that trip with my Father and credit him for opening my eyes to how wondrous our Earth is, how it needs to be protected and ultimately how important it is to unplug and spend time outdoors, especially with your loved ones.
I believe the combination of unplugging AND spending time outside may be the answer to many of life’s ills. I know that combination works for me. As we enter the beautiful season of summer, when getting outdoors can be even more accessible due to weather and vacation schedules, I’d like to encourage everyone to unplug and make being outside with your friends and family a priority.
Still Need Convincing?
Here are some compelling reasons to unplug and get outside!
#1 Provides Stress Relief
Stress is relieved within minutes of exposure to nature as measured by muscle tension, blood pressure, and brain activity. Time in green spaces significantly reduces your cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Nature also boosts endorphin levels and dopamine production, which promotes happiness.
#2 Boosts Your Energy
Some studies suggest that spending 20 minutes in the open air gives your brain an energy boost comparable to one cup of coffee!
#3 Promotes Better Sleep
If you live and work in the city, then you are confined to small spaces for the bigger part of your day. A tiny cubicle at the office, a tiny car, small spaces in public transit, and a cluttered apartment back home. You don’t have many shots at fresh air, so make sure you set aside some time every day for the outdoors—even if it’s as short as a quick walk around the block. Scientists have previously demonstrated how critical fresh air is to your immune system, heart rate, and blood pressure. Also, note that outdoor activity can reduce your risk of obesity and breathing problems. All these benefits accumulate to create the perfect recipe for a good night’s sleep!
#4 Encourages More Exercise
Being outdoors encourages more exercise—think hiking, biking, swimming and running! The beauty of outdoor exercise is that it can be as simple as a brisk walk around the block, even light gardening or other yard work are often considered moderate outdoor physical activities!
#5 Boosts Brain Health
Spending time outdoors with natural scenery has actually been proven to improve brain function. Being outdoors is not only beneficial, but also crucial for the brain's health. Researchers say that the frontal cortex, which is responsible for controlling emotions and problem solving, is activated during time spent outdoors. The experience of being outdoors forces the brain to make neurotransmitter connections that are critical for positive brain health, and even brain growth and development in children.
#6 Restores Your Focus and Helps You Reset
Can’t concentrate at work? Leave your office for a few minutes and go stroll in a nearby park. Studies show that walking in nature helps restore our focus.
#7 Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D and Boost Your Immune System
Scientists think that breathing in phytoncides—airborne chemicals produced by plants—increases our levels of white blood cells, helping us fight off infections and diseases. Similarly, Vitamin D is essential for a well-functioning body. It helps us absorb calcium, it prevents osteoporosis, and it reduces inflammation, among other things. Although vitamin D is present in some foods, like salmon and fortified milk, we get more than 90 percent of our vitamin D from casual exposure to sunlight.
#8 Fosters Creativity and Imagination
If you’re struggling with a creative block, you might want to ditch your laptop for the great outdoors. Psychologists found that backpackers scored 50 percent higher on creativity tests after spending a few days in the wild without electronics.
#9 Promotes Happiness
Researchers have found that nature simply makes us happy. Anxiety, depression and anger are notably decreased after spending time outdoors.
“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” – Aristotle
Enjoy your summer. Enjoy our Planet.
CEO + Founder