If we wanted, most of us could probably spend most of our lives inside. We’re capable of shuttling from home to work to the grocery store to the mall all within the confines of painted walls and steel car doors. Under sheltered rooftops, the weather factors little into how we will spend our day. The sad truth is that most Americans (and Australians) actually do live perpetually inside. A study by the EPA revealed that 93% of American life is spent indoors (87% inside, 6% in automobiles).
93% of all of our time. Time! The most valuable asset we possess!
What are we!? Little blind moles living in underground dirt tunnels? Let’s be real. We were not born to spend our days trapped inside little boxes, watching little boxes, and working to obtain bigger ones. I’m not a sing-with-the-birds-and-hear-the-trees hippy but this statistic sure makes a good case for running into the wilderness and becoming one (no bra burning though – it’s fire season here in Australia). Instead of working less once the average American is able to gain shelter and food with ease (ahem, a privilege denied to many), they tend to work more to sustain this expanding lifestyle. Work more, buy more, work more to keep buying more, etc. iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPhone 6. We all know the cycle by now.
Maybe this is the norm because being so busy with work and having so many obligations has not only been stupidly deemed as socially acceptable but in fact admirable. We are asked, “What do you do?” as in “What do you do for work?” instead of “What do you do?” as in “What do you do that makes you happy?” Not everyone has found a way to turn doing what makes them happy into a career. Are we inside so much because of work? Laziness? Or because we’ve simply forgotten how much we love to be outside?
Time spent outdoors leads to increased physical and mental health, a heightened sense of play, a deeper love for the earth, among a slew of other perks. There is little downside except for the occasional bug bite or awkward sunburn. Staring at the stars universally ignites our imaginations and fresh air allows us to think about how we can pursue our goals. It’s easy to become apathetic about the world if you never touch it with your fingertips and or feel it under your bare feet. After all, people tend not to care about things that they don’t know anything about. It’s not a stretch to say that if we spent more time outside enjoying what is already there, we wouldn’t waste so much time chasing after an unreachable item in a shopping mall. A win for our mental sanity and another win for the environment.
Even with a fully packed average 9-5 schedule, we still have 104 weekend days plus holidays plus the evenings to break free. This is should be more than enough time to play outdoors, but unfortunately too many of us don’t take advantage of it. It’s possible to sleep outside – in your backyard, on a hill, at the nearest campsite even on a weeknight. Your adventures don’t have to be extravagant, expensive, or time-consuming. Join a group of friends, take up a new sport, and get out there. It doesn’t matter if you live in New York City or Columbus, Georgia. There are plenty of outdoor things to do.
Playing shouldn’t stop when we reach adulthood. We still have an inner urge to do things that we’re not obligated to do but still bring us joy. That’s why scrapbooking, building car models, wingsuit flying, camping, and other waste-of-time activities are so popular. We don’t outgrow the desire to play – we just outgrow the guilt-free ability to do it.
So stop staying inside so much this year. Find a body of water to swim in, go for a hike, and park your tent under the shade of a tree. If you make any resolution, let this be it. Release your inner Tarzan, grab a bottle of water, lather up that sunscreen, and go play outside. You were born to be wild (erm, but not too wild, ok? Let’s leave running around naked on all fours to the animals).