Benefits of spending time outdoors

 On a Sunday morning at Purisima Creek, sunlight streams through a mossy forest.

On a Sunday morning at Purisima Creek, sunlight streams through a mossy forest.

With homework, sports, and other extracurricular activities, many students have difficulty finding time to decompress. That’s where the great outdoors come in: spending time outside appeals to our mental, physical, and emotional health.

For senior Sam Hale, who suffers from migraines, doing outdoor activities such as hiking are very beneficial. “Being outside in nature is a good break from technology because that can hurt your eyes staring at a bright screen,” Hale said.

So much of our day-to-day lives involve technology, from the Chromebooks we use at school to the computers we use to watch Stranger Things on Netflix. However, repeatedly staring at a small bright screen gets boring after a while, and has negative effects on the eyes.

“I feel like [spending time outside] is a lot better than being cramped inside. There’s really nothing to do inside. I mean, you could play video games, but that’s not as fun,” sophomore Dalton Gilmartin said.

Along with easing physical pain, being outside is a chance to tune out and reset for social demands or work. Quite a lot of our culture centers around being timely: turning in a paper at this due date, spending a certain amount number of hours studying, or getting to class at this time. Taking care to devote a fraction of our schedules to unwind from the system of timeliness invigorates our mental well-being.

“I get lost in being outside, where I’m not like, okay, how far, how much longer do I have to go,” health teacher Nicole Carter said.

While it is tricky to find enough time to go outside, the positive effects can impact an individual for a day up to an entire week.

“I know that when I get to go outside and go for a run, my mood when I'm done, is positive, lighthearted, and I feel the stress is gone almost immediately, or at least a clearer mind to prioritize and deal with stress,” Carter said.

Finding a fun activity that allows one to remain in the present (and to stop focusing on those deadlines for a moment) can make all the difference when attempting to eradicate stress from one’s life.

“I find that when I don’t longboard, or when I don’t go surfing one week, I feel a lot more stressed, and a lot more anxiety built up,” Gilmartin said.

Trying out new local trails is a great way to de-stress while living on the edge. After all, the Bay Area is a mecca of beautiful trails, parks, and recreational areas. “Instead of just doing the same old routine, get out on the weekends and explore the Bay Area because we have access to free, amazing places,” Carter said.

Some trails are found just ten minutes away by car, like Mills Creek Canyon Park and Coyote Point Recreation Area. A little farther south are places like Wunderlich Park and Huddart Park in Woodside, which Hale described as “less crowded Muir woods.”

For variety, one can run, bike, or even eat a picnic with friends. For those that value introspective thought, Philosopher’s Way is an urban hike in South San Francisco with an abundance of wildflowers and markers containing bits of poetry, and local historical/ecological information. Devil’s Slide, located in Half Moon Bay, is another adventurous trail comprising of a paved segment of Highway 1 and panoramic views of rocky coastal waters. Just make sure to stay on the path.

 A morning fog lies low over a row of trees at Purisima Creek.

A morning fog lies low over a row of trees at Purisima Creek.

Volunteering is a fabulous way to spend time outdoors and give back to the community. It also looks pretty nifty on resumes. Over the course of the year, multiple beach cleanups are held in the Bay Area. Clubs such as Trail Stewardship Club focus on giving back to the world around us. Specifically, the goal of Trail Stewardship Club is to “get outdoors, have fun, and get a good workout,” according to club leader and junior, Alex Wolf.

Trail Stewardship Club works to maintain outdoor recreational areas around the Bay Area by working with local organizations such as Sutro Stewards, Friends of Sausal Creek, and others. Wolf described it as “mostly nursery and cleanup work, as well as building trails.”

Joining a club like Trail Stewardship is the ultimate way to de-stress because one gives back to the community while spending  time away from the clamor of suburbia, and getting in a good workout.

“It’s like killing three birds with one stone,” Wolf said.

Posted on December 6, 2016 .