Getting outside and moving your body is critical to maintaining a healthy body and brain. Current indications are that time in the great outdoors can actually protect and improve your memory.
1. Being Outside Reduces Your Stress
Being stressed is a form of crisis. Your brain is focused on a problem or emotional state and your body is functioning at a heightened level. When you’re under emotional or mental stress, your ability to convert short-term memories into long-term memories is reduced. Not only will you struggle to keep your memories, but your thinking may be an anxious knot of troubles.
Exercising also forces you to breathe more deeply. Deep breaths loosen up the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles. High levels of cortisol can lead to excess belly fat, and cortisol is the stress hormone. Instead of worrying about your gut, work it and get some oxygen to your brain.
2. Moving Your Body Frees Up Your Mind
In addition to helping you convert short-term memories into long-term memories, getting outside and moving your body in a habitual way actually allows you to think at a higher level. Most of us learned to walk before we learned to talk. The creative connections between memories that come to your mind can be completely separate from the action of putting one foot in front of the other.
When our bodies move in a habitual way, the creative brain is released to make connections that may not be obvious when we’re sitting in a chair. If you’ve been dealing with a problem at home or at work and have that “answer on the tip of the tongue” feeling, go outside. Move your body. Focus on deep breathing and let your refreshed brain come up with the answer you couldn’t quite reach.
3. Being Outside Helps You Focus
Being indoors often means being overwhelmed by outside sources. Televisions, radios, computers, and digital games can often leave you feeling trapped. Get on the walking path or participate in an activity on the water. Stop all the outside narratives that have been hammering at your brain and let your senses bathe in fresh air, the scent of trees, and the feeling of sunshine on your face.
For many of us, getting outside can also mean learning something new. Training your mind to always be learning is one of the best ways to maintain your ability to build new memories. Neuroplasticity, or the ability to build new neural networks, can fade as we get older. Conditions such as anxiety and depression can also limit neuroplasticity. Getting outside is a great way to fight getting stuck in your own head.
4. Building New Memories Strengthens the Brain
Building a new memory and moving it from short-term memory storage to long-term memory storage is actually a fairly complicated procedure. It’s a learned behavior that can fade if it doesn’t get enough use.
Building new habits includes chunking those new memories into a group. If you plan to do yoga outside, you have to lay out your mat and gear, get your yoga video to play outside, and learn to move through the poses despite the sun in your eyes or a sudden breeze.
This new collection of actions is a habit. New habits are simply a series of new actions in a specific order. Being outside and pushing yourself to build new habits will stretch those memory-making muscles.
Life stress and general pressure can make it hard to create and maintain memories. Break away from your desk, sofa, or easy chair and get outside to boost your brain power.