by Sarah Johnson
We’re at the height of the holiday season, which means it’s time to decide if 2018 will be a year with or without New Year’s Resolutions.
I’ve heard a lot of people dismiss resolutions – they say it just sets them up for failure. I guess there’s some pessimistic logic there, but I don’t know many people who achieve even small goals without deciding on what they are and how they plan to accomplish them. This year, though, I propose a resolution that’s not just about you.
What if, instead of resolving to lose weight, or quit smoking, or exercise more, you made a commitment to spend more time with other people in the outdoors? First, you’ll probably be more likely to achieve those conventional lifestyle changes that loom for many of us around the New Year. But more importantly, you will be making personal changes with broad-reaching impacts that we’re just starting to recognize.
Here are some things we’ve learned so far. Time outside, especially active time, is associated with:
- better sleep;
- reduced inflammation throughout the body;
- improved mood and concentration; and
- a stronger sense of empathy, behavior that strengthens relationships, and feeling like a part of a community.
We also know that those social connections:
- are associated with increased longevity;
- have a stronger influence on health than losing weight, quitting smoking or lowering high blood pressure; and
- collectively have a positive impact on a community’s academic achievement, crime rates, and economic growth.
Taken together, spending time outdoors while connecting with other people might be the easiest and most enjoyable thing you can do to make yourself and your community better.
In our part of Colorado, we have great opportunities for outdoor recreation of almost every type – hiking, skiing, biking, hunting, fishing, etc. “Outside” is much closer than our public lands, though, and you don’t need to buy fancy equipment for this resolution to work.
The first step is easy: Invite a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker or two, maybe just one time or maybe for a standing date if you’re really serious about this resolution. Bonus points for inviting someone you don’t know well and would like to know better.
Then decide what sounds fun and do-able: Start your morning with a walk together to the nearest coffee shop and back. Take a jog around the block after work. If you have a bike, go for a ride on the River Trail or around the neighborhood.
Getting outside together doesn’t require athleticism or wealth. All it requires is commitment, and committing together sets up an accountability that makes success more likely.
You’ll be healthier, but you’ll also likely be happier. And you’ll be making a small but important personal contribution to Mesa County’s vision of being a vibrant, caring, and connected community where each of us has the relationships and opportunities we need to thrive.