Just like everyone else out there, I'm always looking for ways to optimize. Optimize my work, my pleasure, my health. There's a ton of advice out there about how to be more productive at work, how a new gadget will save you time around the house, or how to get a promotion.
But there's less out there about ways to improve your spiritual satisfaction. Where are all of the articles with titles like "5 Easy Ways to Live a Fulfilled Life"? Most of the time, we think that the biggest, most important issues in life are problems for an individual person to solve. We think that some people are just born to be miserable, to suffer incessantly.
This is total nonsense.
In this article I'm going to share with you the best tip for increasing your happiness and spiritual health. What I'll share with you is truly easy---it's really the ultimate life hack. You might be skeptical at first; I usually am when someone says that they know the secret to life and how easy it is to achieve happiness. But give it a chance before you dismiss what I'm about to say.
My simple trick is this: Spend time outdoors.
What do you mean "spend time outdoors!?"
It's quite simple. You're probably inside right now, reading this article. (Unless you're outside at a park or something, reading this on your phone---in which case, put your phone down and enjoy the scenery!) I suggest that as soon as you're done reading this article, you put down your device, leave your domicile, and enjoy some fresh air. If you're near one, go to a park, look at trees, stretch your legs.
Better yet, take a few days off work, pack up a backpack, and head down a trail for a few days, spending time away from your devices and instead learning about yourself and your natural environment.
As modern day humans, we spend most of our time indoors. We sleep indoors, travel long distances indoors in our cars, work indoors, die indoors inside hospitals. We only seem to ever go outside when we need to travel a short distance to get to another indoor area.
This pattern isn't natural. Humans have evolved over millennia out of doors; we're optimized to sleep under the stars and travel through jungles and desert. For the first time in human history, we're disrupting our natural environment in favor of a new, artificial one. It can't be good for our mental and spiritual well-being.
What does the science say?
Don't take my word for it. The science unequivocally says that spending time outdoors has numerous health benefits.
This is a term coined by the psychologist Richard Louv. There's been a minor epidemic in the diagnosis of behavioral problems among children in the last few decades. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) being the most notorious one. What is the cause? What's different about today's children as opposed to those in previous time periods? The answer, according to Louv, is that children spend less time outside these days, resulting in not only ADHD but also depression, anxiety and obesity.
When kids are taken out for nature trips, they've been shown to recover from many of these behavioral and mood disorders they suffer from.
Humans get most of their Vitamin D intake from the sun. We absorb the sun's rays through our skin. When we spend most of our time indoors, obviously, we have less opportunity to get our daily requirement of that essential vitamin.
What happens when we don't get enough Vitamin D? The vitamin is vital for our body's regulation of cell growth, bone growth, and immune function. So when we don't get enough, it can lead to illnesses and muscle inflammation.
Numerous studies have shown the havoc modern day distractions wreak on our health. Our incessant checking of our phones, our need for a small hit of dopamine from the likes our posts get on social media... this wretched distraction cycle affects us in ways that we probably don't fully understand yet.
Going outdoors for extended periods of time can free us of modern day distractions---and potentially relieve the concomitant effects of anxiety and depression.
A great way to get your exercise
Getting regular exercise is hard---no one disputes this. But it's even more difficult when you spend all your time inside.
A natural byproduct of spending time outside is that it forces you to exercise and be healthy. Simply going for a walk to your local park and enjoying fresh air will contribute to your health.
How else can outdoors benefit us?
Spending time outdoors can even aid us in overcoming addiction. Many organizations serve former addicts by taking them on nature trips. The movement is called "Nature Therapy" or "Eco Therapy." Many former addicts find that a few weeks spent in nature was far more beneficial to their recovery than spending the same amount of time in an indoors facility.
Because of this, spending time outdoors is vital for our day and age. With the opiate epidemic streaking across America right now, we must encourage people to spend more time out of doors; doing so could play a major role in curbing the number of people addicted to over the counter pain medications.
Okay, so how do I start?
If you want to begin enjoying the effects of the outdoors, just do it. Even a short walk has been shown to provide serious health benefits. Plan to walk every day at lunch. Get on a bicycle and take a long ride on the weekend. Rent a canoe and explore a local lake.
To really detox from modern life and enjoy a true natural experience, I would suggest going on an extended, multi-day trip. Look into local outdoor outfitters for information on guided trips. Or better yet, be adventurous and plan a backpacking trip yourself.