Nature - Stepping Out

Please forgive me, but I’m going to get a little bossy here. My title pretty much says it. Get outside. No excuses. Just do it. Step out the door. Get out of the car. Even if you can’t walk far or ride a bike, just find a place to sit in the sun and take it all in. Hear the birds, feel the breeze, smell the sweet scent of spring in the air. Revitalize yourself.

More and more research is showing that being outdoors is actually good for your health. I have to admit to a bit of astonishment at this—not the fact that being outside is healthy, but that someone actually had to study it. Isn’t it obvious?

Our society has spent centuries trying to protect itself from the elements. We build houses. We travel in enclosed vehicles. We have heating and refrigeration, stores for everything and anything we can imagine. We can communicate with people across the world in a matter of seconds and we can watch them while we do so, if we are so inclined.

We no longer need to make our clothes, cut down trees to stay warm or grow all our own food. We don’t have to wait for a ride from the farmer down the street and we don’t have to milk a cow unless we want to.

In other words, we can pretty much hide from the world and have everything we think we need delivered to our front door. We don’t even have to pay in person. We can just hit a button on our phone and poof! Payment made and accepted.

Many people are only outside as long as it takes them to walk from their vehicle to their office, the store or home. Some like to garden but don’t go much farther than their own yards. Some walk around the block but wear earbuds and look straight ahead rather than all around. They are outdoors in body, but not in mind or soul.

There are still many who do love to be outdoors but even they often prefer one or two seasons over the others. They kayak, bike, garden and go to the beach…in the summer. In the winter they stay indoors. Too cold. The opposite happens, too. Those who love winter sports are not always fans of summer heat.

Just walking barefoot in the grass or on the sand is good for you. There’s energy in all that dirt and sand that travels through us in positive ways. Having no ceiling over your head can make you feel free and a little giddy as well. The sun on our faces, our bodies, is a medicine unlike any other, in spite of all the bad press it gets these days.

Some think an hour a day outdoors is necessary for good mental health. I can’t prove that, but I do know that it has to be better for our psyches than hours in a basement playing video games killing make-believe people. Just saying.

A kid I talked to the other day rolled his eyes and said being outdoors was borrrrrrrriiiinnnnnnng.

Yep, that’s the point. No flashing lights, music or bouncing images. There’s nothing intrinsic in a warm spring afternoon that will get your heart pumping and adrenalin rushing. In fact, just the opposite may happen. A walk on a nice day can be calming but also inspiring. Many creative people will tell you they get some of their best ideas when they are out walking.

A little boredom is good for us, I think. It makes us look around ourselves, listen, smell and feel things. It helps us find the time and space to solve whatever problems we may be thinking about and it may even encourage us to try something new.

Nice weather is great but some of my best walks outdoors have been in funky weather, so don’t let a little wind or cold keep you indoors. Just dress appropriately. Wherever you are, whatever the weather, just get outside.

You’re welcome.

Mary Richmond is an artist, writer, naturalist, and educator who grew up on the Cape and lives in Hyannis. More information is at

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