The Great Outdoors: Part 2 – A Slow Experiment

“Everything resets outside. Your mind resets, your priorities might reset. All these different things click over. And when you come back, you have this spark of creativity; the barrier that was there is no longer there. How powerful is that?” – Ben

We’re one week into the Great Outdoors experiment, and, unsurprisingly, it’s off to a super enjoyable start. In today’s episode, Ben and I talk about how we’ve spent the last week getting out in nature and what we’ve been noticing in ourselves as a result. We also dive into some specific research around the emotional benefits of spending time outside (there’s a lot more than I expected, to be honest) and while some of it feels a little “Well, yeah, obviously…” I find it amazing that we know how beneficial time outside can be and still manage to avoid it. Us humans are so accomplished at putting off those things that benefit us the most, aren’t we??

We also talk about how we spent our outdoors time over the past week. It’s been a combination of solo time and family time, active and contemplative. One day I spent my 60 minutes outside just sitting by the river watching the water flow, and loved being reminded that we don’t need to overcomplicate this idea of reconnecting with nature. It doesn’t need to be grand, it doesn’t need to be exercise, it doesn’t need to be Instagrammable. It is so often enough to simply focus on the being rather than the doing.

Ben talks about the difference he’s noticed between time spent outside in nature versus time spent outside in an urban environment. He shares some research where this distinction was made between urban and natural outdoor environments, and the different impacts they had on stress, happiness, creativity, generosity, kindness, attention and the feeling of being alive. No surprises, nature comes out ahead.

The other discovery I’ve made this week, as I’ve been reading up on the emotional benefits of time spent outdoors, is that awe is one of the most effective experiences in delivering big emotional benefits. I always thought that feeling awe-inspired by nature was nothing more than a beautiful by-product, but I’ve discovered that there is a significant amount of research that shows just how important it is as a standalone emotion. Studies have found that awe is more important than happiness when it comes to unlocking all the emotional benefits of time spent outside, as it forces us to slow down and be immersed in the thing we are in awe of. Pretty magical stuff, right?

So I’d love to encourage you to try and keep that sense of awe and childlike curiosity with you this week as you spend time with nature big and small, and stay tuned for the experiment episodes for the rest of the month, where Ben and I will look at the mental (especially performance) and physical benefits of spending time in nature. If you’re playing along, don’t forget to share how you’re going over on Instagram using the hashtag #slowexperiment, or comment on Facebook. We’d love to know what you’ve found challenging or easy so far, and if you’ve noticed any emotional benefits at all!

Enjoy!

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20 Responses to The Great Outdoors: Part 2 – A Slow Experiment

  1. Such a wonderful podcast. I have found outdoors has had a great mental health benefits for me with my seasonal depressive order. I also am a firm believer for children to move outside in random ,unorganized ways. Just explorative. Wonderful book addressing this is “last child in the woods.” Also what is a “bushwalk”?

    • A hike. A ramble. Or a tramp. Depending on where you are from. In Australia we call the native treed countryside the bush … so it’s the equivalent of a walk in the woods.

  2. This was really a great conversation. It’s funny I live in a suburb of a small city. I love hiking and being outdoors. But I do love going into the city and walking and seeing people doing the same. So I count urban outdoors time too. It is really interesting the statistic of spending 95%time indoors. Very scary. Also liked Ben’s point about how we bring outdoor I side. Just another way consumerism has a hold of us. Thanks for pushing me to live a slower lifestyle. It has changed me for the better.

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