By Megan Moore, Crosswalk.com
Summertime brings longer days, warmer weather, and plenty of opportunities to get outside. Not only is it enjoyable to spend time outdoors, but it is also extremely important for our overall health. Nature benefits us spiritually, physically, and emotionally. So, let's open the front door and step into the wide, wonderful world this season!
The Bible is full of references to God as Creator. He made the world and all that is in it. Psalm 104:24-25 (NIV) says,
"How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number- living things both large and small."
When we look to the skies, we see God's hand. "It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts" Isaiah 45:12 (NIV). We know His power when we look skyward. "He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land— the Lord is His Name" Amos 5:8 (NIV). His goodness stretches out over the entire earth. "The heavens declare the glory of God: the skies proclaim the work of His hands" Psalm 19:1 (NIV). We witness God's design when we stand at the edge of the sea or the base of the mountain. "In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land" Psalm 95:4-5 (NIV). Looking at beautiful flowers reminds us of His sovereignty. "Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these" Luke 12:27 (NIV).
When God spoke to Job, He told Him that His ways are higher than ours. Our understanding is limited. Job 37 lists numerous ways that God controls nature. There are three verses in particular that I recite when I need to be reminded to rest in God's might. "Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God's wonders. Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes His lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of Him who has perfect knowledge?" Job 37:14-16 (NIV). When I feel out of control, I read these verses and head outside to look at the clouds. It is true that I am not in control, and how thankful I am for that. Because those clouds up there, perched just so, are absolutely perfect.
When we spend time in His creation, we can reflect on all He has done for us. We offer a prayer and learn more about the heart of God. He has shown us part of Himself through His creation. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities– His eternal power and divine nature– have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse" Romans 1:20 (NIV). Nature can be spiritual if we only look through the eyes of awe at what our Lord has done. "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is mankind that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?" Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV).
WedMD and the US Forest Service, a subset of the USDA, name several ways the great outdoors impacts our physical health. We are more likely to participate in physical activity outside, and Vitamin D from the sun helps our bodies absorb certain minerals. Just be sure not to overdo it in the sunshine! Short bursts of regular exposure are best for Vitamin D absorption without putting you at increased risk of skin cancer from the sun's UV rays.
Exposure to natural light also helps our sleep. While it may seem counterintuitive, early morning light is actually best for improving sleep. This is because our eyes need to absorb natural light in the morning to keep our internal clock programmed correctly. So, grab a cup of tea and head outside this morning, then have a great sleep tonight! When we spend time outside, our immunity benefits. Not only does Vitamin D boost our immune system, but sunlight energizes our cells in a certain way that helps to fight infection. Plants also produce a compound that appears to aid our immune systems- so stop and smell the roses today!
WebMD and the US Forest Service also tell us some ways that being outside positively impacts our emotional health. Sunlight, exercise, plants, and fresh air decrease anxiety, depression, and stress while increasing feelings of happiness. I'm sure most of us could use some decreased stress and increased happiness. When can you find a few minutes to get outside and take a deep breath? Just stepping into your yard can help. Is there a green space in your town that you pass by on the way to work? Maybe a little break there during the day is all you need. Dinner al fresco (eating outside) might give a little boost that can work wonders.
The University of California- Berkeley cites a recent study that indicates time outdoors can help to boost creativity. You can read the study here: Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. Other studies support these findings that our creativity, problem-solving skills, and attention all increase with time in nature. I believe the brain science behind these studies, but I also believe that we are programmed on a spiritual level to be in nature. For example, Adam and Eve were in a garden. The Creator speaks to us through His creation. Perhaps that is an additional reason why creativity is boosted by nature.
Being outside can be a huge boost to your social life! If you live in a neighborhood, drag out some lawn chairs and host a relaxed neighborhood party. You don't have to do anything but sit outside and chat. Inviting friends over without having to clean my house sounds like a win already! Add in the other benefits of being outdoors; there is no reason not to. If you'd rather be active, call your friends and take a walk through a park instead of your usual coffee date. When the kids are bouncing off the walls, take them outside. When you and your husband have a much needed date night, consider something outdoors. Just being outside is an easy way to have plenty of social opportunities.
Whatever your motivation for getting outside this summer, I hope you experience the presence of God and enjoy the benefits of spending time in nature. While at it, think of some ways to keep the good things going when the temperature drops next winter and it is harder to get outside. It's not impossible, but planning is important. The great outdoors is there for us year-round.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/naruedom
Megan Moore is a military spouse and mom of 3 (through birth and adoption). A speech-language pathologist by training, she now spends her time moving around the country every couple of years. She is passionate about special needs, adoption, and ice cream.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
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