Don’t Go Crazy—Go Outside Already

get outside

When your parents used to tell you “go outside and play,” believe it or not, it wasn’t just to get your obnoxious self out of the house. Well fine, it probably was, but it was also damn fine advice. The fact is, the 9 to 5 (hah!) work hours locking us in a lightless box of doom for at least 40 hours a week (or a dorm—it’s just as depressing) is sucking more than just our souls out. It’s depriving us of vital nutrients and exposure to things that will keep us from going bat-shit insane.

As winter is settling around Northern Virginia, the days are over right as I’m calling it quits from work; it’s too cold to be outside, and it sometimes seems as if daylight and warmth are a figment of my imagination. A few weeks ago I finally succumbed to the fact that I cannot continue to work from my porch, as when it slips below 50 degrees, it seems my fingers lose their ability to type. This was a bit of a blow—I’d been working outside, double fisting it with two laptops, phones, notepads, etc. since April, and the difference in my outlook on life did a radical 180 after just a week inside. Throughout the first week I managed. I have a lovely little desk with all my travel reminders around me, BBC World News in the background, and dogs snoring at my feet. But come the weekend the stomach flu kicked in, it rained the whole time, was miserably cold, and everything added up to too much misery for going outside. Starting into the second week with little to no daylight or outside time, my migraines returned, weariness set in, I was restless and agitated, and a good night’s sleep became a thing of the past.

I didn’t make the correlation until a blissfully balmy 65-degree day came my way and I found myself back on my porch, surrounded by annoying birds, the sounds of the neighborhood, dogs barking, and the slight breeze running beside me. I felt healthy again. I could feel my mind speeding up. I was more productive and I didn’t experience this crushing darkness around my entire being. I felt cheerful again and less like a Dementor was sitting on my chest.

For those of you thinking, “this sounds like a classic case of S.A.D.” (seasonal affective disorder), you’re probably right. I am a delicate flower who needs light. I don’t mind rainy days, or even endlessly rainy days (I did live in England for a few months) as long as there is a way for me to be out and about in them. Some of my favorite days working on the porch were grey and rainy, made cozy with endless cups of tea and a fuzzy blanket. But when it’s too cold or too dark to make that possible, stir crazy becomes the name of the game for me.

The fact is, there’s no surprise here. We are animals who have evolved into society, but at no point has that made us predisposed to being boxed in. We work inside. We exercise inside. Our entertainment is inside and it’s not good for us. We need light. We need fresh air. We need to escape into the wild yonder outside the reach of any and all tethers to our inside lives.

You don’t have to be athletic or travel far and wide to do it either. Even if it’s just sitting outside listening to music and reading a book, that little bit of vitamin D and reconnection with mother earth will reinvigorate you. Take the dog for a walk instead of running on a treadmill. Bundle up and sit outside for lunch. Skip an hour of Netflix and go to the park. Or hell, download a movie to your iPad and watch it there if you must. Just get outside and breathe a little easier. If you can make time for a Starbucks run, you can do the same for a little time in nature. I’d be willing to bet the winter might seem a bit less oppressive, life less stressful, and your outlook brighter.

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Do the cold, dark winter months drive you stir crazy too? Tweet us @litdarling

View Comments (3)
  • Ugh, I hate winter. It’s so cold and dismal.
    There’s also an interesting interaction with melatonin. Melatonin helps us sleep and it’s activated by darkness. So when the days are shorter and it’s all gloomy then we tend to be sleepier because of increased melatonin production. And yea, vitamin D can really help with moods, which is why lately they’ve been checking it in people who are depressed. It’s all very interesting.
    Thanks for writing this article Katie!

    • While I didn’t go into it in the article, there was often a direct correlation to my grades in school and the amount of sunlight available. I always had a devil of a time going to class in Jan/Feb because I just couldn’t get out of bed. When I had the opportunity to transfer to Syracuse I realized that if the cold/dark bothers me in VA, it will kill me in upstate NY!

      • You would have to get a happy light if you went up there! And a space heater. I would die. Haven’t lived North of the Mason-dixon line in 13 years. :P

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