The Health Benefits of the Great Outdoors

by | Apr 19, 2021 | Blog

“The time outside helped to deal with the stress of being separated from our service member and from living with family for an extended period of time.” ~ Elizabeth Bosse

“The time outside helped to deal with the stress of being separated from our service member and from living with family for an extended period of time.” ~ Elizabeth Bosse

In January of 2020 I realized I needed to make some changes in my wellness journey. I was feeling stressed and could not figure out exactly what the root issue was. We had been living at our current duty station for just over a year and I felt mostly settled in, but something still wasn’t feeling quite right. I had only been able to run off and on because of air quality conditions and that’s when I realized what I was missing was outside time! I love being outside.  Whether I’m working out, sitting in the grass reading, playing outside with our daughter, I feel so much peace when I’m outside.


We are stationed in Manila in the Philippines, which is the very definition of a concrete jungle. We live on the twentieth floor and mostly only see other high-rise buildings from our windows. At the 2010 census there were an estimated thirty-three million people living within the borders of metro Manila.


 I made myself a goal that after I dropped our daughter off at play school I would walk around the small park in our village for thirty minutes each day. There was a tiny bit of green inside this park with a really nice circular walking path. I took those thirty minutes and focused on the different plants in the park, the birds chirping, and of course honking horns. The benefits I noticed within the first few minutes of my walk were many! My jaw almost immediately unclenched. My shoulders relaxed away from my ears. My fists opened up. I even began sleeping better at night. 

I did this until March 8, 2020, when our city went on full lockdown due to Covid-19. We were unable to leave our building for any reason except emergencies. Groceries would be delivered by the government until letters authorizing one person to do the shopping were issued. About ten days later my daughter and I left the Philippines. We flew back to the United States to stay with family for what we hoped would just be a couple of months of quality time.


I remembered my need for outside time and strapped our daughter into her stroller and walked daily. With getting outside each day we were both able to recover from jet lag so much faster!  We continued to enjoy the outdoors the entire time we were in the United States. Whether we were playing at the playground, taking walks, blowing bubbles, just kicking balls around, we soaked up as much outdoor time as we could. I took weekly hikes and ran three times weekly.  The physical benefits were awesome, but the mental and emotional release and relief I felt were something that I had greatly missed. The time outside helped us deal with the stress of being separated from our service member and from living with family for an extended period of time.

When we were finally able to return home to Manila after a long ten months, I knew I had to establish a plan for getting outside time. We had a fourteen-day quarantine once returning to the country. We spent time out on the balcony playing games, reading, and sometimes just sitting. It was hard. The first morning our quarantine was up, I laced up my shoes and went for a walk at 5:30 a.m. I felt like a new person getting outside after being cooped up for two weeks. But it was hard walking in the heat with a mask and carrying a face shield around. We made a plan to go to the embassy compound almost daily so that I could walk there. The air quality is much better at the compound because it is by the bay and we aren’t required to wear masks if exercising outside. Now, I continue to enjoy the feeling of my shoulders relaxing, my jaw unclenching, and my hands releasing their fists.

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I’ve also been trying to use my time outside exercising as a mindfulness retreat. I take the time to use most of my senses, especially sight, sound, and smell. I have seen and smelled some of the most amazing flowers. I’ve heard the giggles of children, the barks of dogs, heard the tennis balls hitting the rackets on the tennis courts. When I was hiking in the United States before our return, I found myself looking for different types of fungi. If I saw a nice rock formation, I would stop and sit on the rocks for a minute of intentional breathing. I would imagine myself really connected and rooted to the ground beneath me. That was such a grounding experience. This mindful exercise really helped me focus on the present and was a great benefit of being outside that I had never considered before.

Upon returning to Manila, I’ve also moved my yoga classes outside. As a yoga teacher I had never really considered the benefits of teaching yoga outside. While teaching I remind myself and my students to really imagine themselves rooted into the earth, to feel the wind blowing on their skin, to listen to the sounds around them. I watch as the crease between their brows loosens and their shoulders drop. I see their breath began to fill more of their body. It has been really amazing to see.

As I was writing this, Manila has gone back under full lockdown. We have a strict curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. and are only supposed to go outside for essentials. It made me instantly feel beat down. But we’ve put some things in place to help us feel like we are outdoors. We have arranged our exercise room so that the bike looks out the balcony windows. We have a chair set up on the balcony that gets the most sun and a spot out there to play our games. The relaxing feeling that I get from walking outside isn’t quite as immediate but it’s there. We try to incorporate some of the mindful activities by playing iSpy. The things you can see, hear, and smell from the twentieth floor are pretty amazing when there is little to no traffic. Outside time is something that we have learned to not take for granted this last year. It has really become clear to me exactly how much being outside impacts my wellness and I plan to keep this knowledge in my wellness toolbelt.

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ABOUT elizabeth

Elizabeth Bosse, army wife of almost 15 years, one 4 year old daughter. We have moved 8 times, 4 of those overseas with the army. I am a 200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance with 2 years experience. I have a certificate in the Roll Model Method. I am a reiki practitioner. I love to run, read and drink chai lattes.

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