Spend time outside to combat 'the January blues'

The cheerful, brightly-lit festive season is over and the days (in the UK at least) are generally cold and grey; you’re forced to have the light on indoors and you may be low on human interaction.

Researchers estimate that in the UK, as many as 12-13% of us may suffer from ‘January blues’: a decrease in energy, a tendency to gain weight and feel more tired – while around 3-6% suffer from the more serious SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)), which is usually at its worst between December and February. 

One of the key ways to combat the January blues is spending as much time outside as possible. Here are the reasons why:

Nature increases brain function

Taking in a bit of nature can help your brain in more than one way. For starters, spending time outdoor hours may increase concentration skills. 

Taking a walk can also increase creativity. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that walking increases creative production. Plus, all of that fresh air is a quick way to kick your brain into high gear. By ditching the caffeine and sticking to a walk in the park, some say that 20 minutes outside can wake you up just as much as one cup of coffee.

Vitamin D can be a tricky nutrient to get enough of strictly from foods because so few naturally carry it, so most of us soak up between 80 to 90% of our sunshine vitamin from those golden rays. And while we all know to protect ourselves from the sun to avoid skin cancer, we also need vitamin D for bone growth, cell growth, inflammation reduction and neuromuscular and immune function.

The outdoors makes us happy

In addition to helping decrease stress levels, spending more time with nature shows a shift toward more positive moods. While we don't know exactly why this happens in our bodies, the idea is that we like things that are inherently good for us and our survival, which is why trees and other natural elements can help lift our moods.

The outdoors may even help us age gracefully

Research shows that gardening can help dementia and stroke patients improve social skills and confidence, while even increasing mobility and dexterity.

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