Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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June 07 2012

Why You Should Work Outside

By Mark Sisson
118 Comments

We’ve discussed the “nature-deficit disorder” running rampant throughout contemporary society before. Kids are more likely to control characters in video games who explore vast outdoor worlds (and complain about the graphics “not being realistic enough”) rather than get out and explore the real world themselves (which has excellent graphics, a pretty snazzy physics engine, and killer AI). Adults are likely to go entire days without stopping to smell a flower, pluck a leaf, caress a blade of grass, or even see a shred of foliage. We’ve also written about some of the incredible health benefits that occur once people correct that deficit and go forest bathing, or hiking, or commiserating with animals, or even planting a small garden on their property. In other words, a lack of nature seems to cause physical and mental health problems, while an exposure to nature seems to improve physical and mental health.

What’s going on here?

If you look at things through the lens of evolution, you notice that we’re doing things differently than we’ve ever done before. People live in suburbs or urban centers. Rural communities are shrinking, urban sprawl is widening. Green space is disappearing. And we’re suffering. A lack of nature is incredibly unhealthy. Being in and around leaves and trees and sand and bugs and dirt and desert and all the rest is the natural state of the animal known as man. It’s home. It’s in our blood and in our genes. We might have adapted to spending lots of time indoors, but not completely. The evidence is all around us, if you just pay attention:

The young child who runs around the park like a chicken with his head removed just to do it.

The sullen teen, whose parents drag him kicking and screaming to the redwoods for a hike, who has to leave behind his iPhone, who enjoys himself despite his best efforts to the contrary.

That feeling when you walk through the grass with bare feet as the sun dips below the horizon and you’re hit with a flood of purples and pinks, where if you didn’t know better you wouldn’t be able to tell if it was dawn or dusk.

And finally, the office worker who goes on vacation to Costa Rica, does nothing but sit on the beach at the edge of a jungle teeming with howler monkeys and impossibly brightly-colored birds for two weeks, and comes back healthier, happier, stress-free, and down ten pounds.

Yeah, for a great many people, work stinks. Actually, let’s put that a little differently: For a great many people, indoor work stinks. What if it didn’t have to be like that? What if you could work outside, commune with nature as you typed, feel the grass underfoot as you brainstorm, and hear not the drone of the overhead lighting but rather the chirp of the bird, the caw of the crow, and the overpowering stillness of the outdoors? There’s very little direct research dealing with the effect of working outside versus indoors, but I think we can make some predictions based on the considerable evidence for the benefits of being outside in general.

Unfortunately, the benefits of working outdoors aren’t always obvious. What does your boss care if you feel more relaxed when you take your work outside? If it doesn’t translate to improved earnings, the higher-ups generally aren’t going to take it into account. They might care on a personal level, but there is no way to accurately or reliably quantify the benefits to the business. Or if you’re the boss, either of employees or yourself, why should you want to switch everything up and start working outside? What’s in it for you, besides feeling better and some random health benefits? How will it affect a person’s ability to work?

Stress Alleviation

The clear-cut, most obvious problem with work is job-related stress. We’re pushed too hard for too little pay. This can be stressful. We’re doing something we’d rather not, rather than doing something we actually enjoy. This is stressful as well. We’re competing with our workmates for promotions, pay raises, or even just to keep our jobs. Such competition, especially prolonged competition, can be stressful. We’re looking over our shoulders, worrying about layoffs and mergers and fluctuations in other markets that affect our employment. This can be stressful, especially because so much is ultimately out of our immediate control. It’s no wonder, then, that people assume that the stress comes entirely from the actual work. Doing anything for eight hours at a time, especially when you don’t particularly care for it and particularly when you sit down the entire time with nary a break, can be draining and stressful. You toss in a long commute and a boss you hate, and things get even worse.

But I think there’s much more to job-related stress than the job. I think the physical work environment – the office, the cubicle, the indoor lighting, the walls boxing you in, the uniform sameness of it all – also plays a role, perhaps even the primary role. After all, evidence is mounting that nearly all lab animals are perpetually stressed, primarily because their natural habitats are vastly different than the lab habitat. If we’re in a similar position, spending a third of our days in physical environments that are wholly alien to our genes, subject to lighting that’s not as bright as the sun, windows that only some of the UV rays through, walls that keep us penned in, chairs that keep us immobile, and a distinct lack of greenery, dirt, sand, silt, mud, muck, bugs, and trees, increased stress is a likely result.

As to why we should want to improve our experience at work and reduce stress, job-related stress isn’t just unpleasant and, well, stressful. It can also complicate, complement, and exacerbate metabolic syndrome, raising triglycerides, blood pressure, and the risk of renal and heart disease. Pretty hard to get those TPS reports done with a failing kidney. Oh, and happier and less stressed workers are also better workers. Overall, occupational stress is a huge target. If we can reduce that by working outside, we’ll probably have mitigated a big portion of the stress in our lives.

Attention Restoration

For all intents and purposes, humans have two “types” of attention: voluntary, or active attention; and involuntary, or passive attention. When we’re working (or reading, or writing, or watching a TV show, or trying to remember a phone number), we are using voluntary attention. We have chosen to direct our attention toward this task, this task demands our full and sustained attention, and we are actively attending to it. An artist, a craftsman, a teacher, a golfer, an insurance broker, a copywriter – they all use voluntary attention to do their thing. Everyone who does anything does. Of course, voluntary attention takes a lot out of us. It’s tiring. It must be sustained, but it’s not indefinitely sustainable. We need a break from it.

Involuntary attention refers to “soft fascination.” It’s watching two birds in flight, an ant carrying food back to the nest, a leaf fluttering down from the tree, carried by the wind. It’s hearing a child’s cry, a trickling creek, a distant waterfall. It’s a respite from voluntary attention, because it doesn’t really require active engagement. It’s just there, and we’re observing it, almost like we’re “meant” to see this type of stuff on a regular basis without it occupying too much brain power.

If voluntary attention is like an intense workout, involuntary attention is the low-intensity active recovery, the walking, the mobility work, the cool down. We need both to be whole and healthy and attentive. If we spend all our time engaged in voluntary, active attention – like 10 hour days at work, 2 hour commutes, and 2 hours of late night TV – our performance declines, we get mental fatigue, and we’re less able to respond to novel situations and plan ahead. In short, we get overtrained.

Research shows that nature exposure is a way to foster involuntary attention, since walking in the woods doesn’t require us to “be on.” And if we move our work outside, to even just a small sliver of nature like a garden or a park, research shows that we can restore our attentional capacity, our balance between voluntary and involuntary attention. Our voluntary attention is the precious, finite resource that allows us to excel at work-related pursuits, and going into nature can replenish our stores of voluntary attention and, subsequently, our ability to work smarter and better. Why, it’s like using your laptop while it’s plugged in – you can operate at full screen brightness, have three browsers with tons of tabs open, watch videos, render graphics, edit photos, and play music, all at the same time. Okay, so that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but it will almost certainly help your performance.

There’s this idea that dallying in nature is wasteful, or that it’s time that could be better spent being productive, making money (especially for someone else!). I’m not buying it. For hundreds of thousands of years, people have been making tools, setting traps, building homes, butchering beasts, discovering math, science, physics, and astronomy, all while living in or near nature. Until recently, the wild was all around most of us. Even if you lived in the city or a village, nature was waiting outside the walls. Still we worked, and worked well. Why not now? Why not today?

As John Muir once said, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over civilised people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” Going outside is “going home.” Now just imagine if you could work from home, too.

That’s the “why.” Next week, I’ll discuss the “how.” In the meantime, go outside, will ya?

Thanks for reading, folks. Thoughts, comments, and concerns are welcome, as always.

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118 thoughts on “Why You Should Work Outside”

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  1. In July my family and I are going to explore the Dakotas, Yellow Stone etc. The days will be filled with hiking (and carrying our 4 year old!), star gazing, open fire cooking, tent camping etc.

    I’ve not had time off longer than an extended weekend since 2009 and between then and now very few trips to my bro inlaws tree farm which is only 60 minutes south of me. My mind is crying out for nature, crying out for the only technology being flash lights, digital camera and some basic supplies.

    I am one of these people, as soon as I step in the forest, close my eyes and take a deep breath my pulse slows, my blood pressure goes down and stress begins to fade.

    The point? We humans need this! And I am a prime example of having access to land, but NOT using it due to the hassles and busy schedule of modern life and I am so trying to free up my schedule for at min. bi-weekly trips down south to relax.

  2. I work in a hospital but I make it a priority to go outside during my breaks. Plus, now that it’s warmer out, outdoor workouts are the greatest.

    1. absolutely I work in a hospital too, but I try and get outside. and there’s nothing like a few sprint sessions out in the sun!

      1. I work in a new, tall hospital building – the second tallest building in my city! I figured out that my badge lets me onto the roof! I go up there on my breaks and can see a little aurora borealis or the huge moon hanging over the bay. It’s like getting my chalkboard cleaned every time I go up there. For hours after, I’m floating on air. Once, I even caught the sun exactly as it broke over the mountains. So even us work rats can find ways to connect with nature. 🙂

        As a night shifter, I can’t do much outdoors without risking getting stabbed or people trying to sell me drugs or ask for change. But I get good workouts on the pipes in the stairwells, etc. And sprint in the park on my days off.

        1. I feel you on the night shift. Course I work in a jail so I done have to go outside for criminals. My only sunshine comes on days off, but fortunately I live in the country and have plenty of yard work.

    2. I work indoors as a nurse in a hospital. My days off are spent outside as much as I can. Yesterday I had the passive enjoyment of watching a painted turtle lay eggs in my yard. It was the most amazing thing…

      1. I work Outside 🙂 To weather’s Mercy 🙂 I love it!!! I may not be rich but i feel i have so much more.Well…maybe i’ll be rich someday but at the moment i have what i need: Nature!

    3. I also work at a hospital. I always make sure to soak-up enough sun before I go in to last me through my shift!

    4. Wow-what hospital do you work at? My management has gone crazy, and I have so much work I rarely get breaks. One of the things I love about the PB diet is how much energy I have; I no longer feel like falling face first into bed when I get off shift. Still hate the pace, though. My manager is so schizo that she tells me ( after her patient rounds) how much my patients love me because I talk to them and teach them so much, then later berates me for punching out 20 minutes late (to finish minimal charting on my three afternoon admissions). I was actually thinking about going outside today-it was beautiful-but my hospital has banned smoking on the premesis and so all the sidewalks are filled with smokers. So not worth it. Hate to leave my patients, but I’m seriously considering trying for a less stressful job.

  3. I am now going to plan a week long vacation to Costa Rica.

  4. When the weather is nice, i always exercise outdoors. That might mean moving my bench and weights out into my yard or heading into one of the local mountains where there are bars for doing pull-ups and dips, as well as climbing ropes. It’s also nice to exercise outdoors shortly after a heavy rainfall because the air has a nice fresh smell to it.

  5. Love this. As an eco-architect, connecting people to Nature through buildings is one of my main motivations. Not that the buildings will substitute for the outdoors, ever, but studies (like this: http://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/downloads/The%20Economics%20of%20Biophilia_Terrapin%20Bright%20Green%202012e.pdf ) have shown a productivity and health benefit to nature-loving design.

    Going Primal, therefore walking more, getting more sun, etc., have made this much more apparent and clear to me. Hmm, Primal Architecture for the 21st c. …

  6. re: “sullen teen… who enjoys himself despite his best efforts to the contrary.”

    A local school takes their 6th graders on a trip to Southern Utah in the spring. Rule 1: no electronics allowed on the trip. When the kids hear that, you would think they were being dipped in boiling oil from the complaints!

    Attitudes start to change within a few hours, on the drive down. And almost without exception, on return 5 days later, the kids all say it was one of their most memorable experiences, and they were glad they didn’t have the electronics with them.

    1. Isn’t it amazing what a difference the “no electronics” rule makes? I watch kids all the time have these things taken away. It usually takes them just a little while to adjust and before they know it, they’ve forgotten all about them. 🙂

  7. Where I work, most of us go for a 15 minute walk at 9am and 2pm. It’s great! But I’m always amused when they ask me why I’m walking on the grassy knoll (under the trees!) while they speed walk on the street. So many reasons! Shade, grass, wind in the trees, birds, moss, mushrooms, flowers, pine cones…

  8. I almost forgot, cutting the lawn is a great way to spend some time outdoors. If you don’t have a lawn, you could even volunteer to cut some ageing neighbours’.

  9. Sometimes (usually) the weather is not helpful here in the UK! However, to make up for this I have put plants by my computer and it by the window. I can drift way from my school work (I’m a primary school teacher) to watch the birds, flowers, insects etc even when ‘working’. A compromise maybe but it still allows for the involuntary attention Mark mentions above.

  10. I decided as a young woman that life behind a desk would probably kill me. Long years of school held about the same appeal, so I had a long string of low wage, service oriented jobs before becoming a stay at home Mom and business owner.

    My early commitment to ensuring I had a life where I could enjoy regular (daily) communes with nature has been successful, but not a path that I could see the majority of folks travelling.

    In fact my ultimate goal is to one day have a retreat for the urban, nature deficient to enjoy reconnecting with the earth on many levels. If the need for such a place disappeared before I get to my goal, I would not be disappointed at all.

    1. I like your plan.

      This is kind of my story too. I think the most depressed I ever was in my life was when I worked 9-12 hour shifts in a big corporate office. Even my friends noticed a big change in me. I was anxious and miserable all the time. I quit that, did other creative work for a while, and now I’m a stay at home mom working towards becoming a yoga teacher.

      I literally just came home from a 3 hour jaunt to the park with my daughter. I do this on my bike because one of the sacrifices we’ve made for me to be home is I got rid of my car. We spend so much time outside (usually at one of our lovely parks) most days that my daughter really doesn’t play with toys. She loves books, but almost all of her toys don’t get played with.

      1. It seems when we strive be satisfied with less, things automatically get simpler. 🙂

      2. I cut my working hours to 3 days a week. It causes some financial stress, but the pay off is worth it a hundred times over. Time to walk in the woods, sit out in the sunshine, observe nature, and do whatever I want to do. It’s how life should be, not this perpetual work-spend-work-spend madness that propels most people through life.

      3. I can totally relate to exactly what you said. Whatever they were paying me sure doesn’t seem very important anymore. An article like this would have probably caused me to stop doing it sooner. Whatever alternate points of view about work and existence were rare and definitely not this well-articulated.

  11. Well, I’ve been needing an excuse to buy some new patio furniture… “I’m moving my office outside! Booyah!”

  12. Great post!

    Santa Fe really lends itself to this (from May-Oct, anyway!)

    I’ve done some coaching via Skype on my patio & just finished a blog post–on Primal fertility nutrition, no less!– while sunbathing on my new lounge chair.

  13. The comment about kids complaining about the reality of video games was amusing to me: my 10 year old loves his computer, but once, on a hike, he commented that it’s nice that nature doesn’t lag the way his video games do. When I first started hiking with him, he was constantly comparing nature to a particular game he plays. I pointed out that the guys who made the game had to experience the real thing before they could put it into the game.

  14. My husband is a letter carrier and has one of the few walking routes left in the city. I’m sure it’s a big factor in his superb health.

  15. This is one of the things I love about being a geologist. Yes, I do have a lot of indoor work to do, writing grants, doing lab work, and then analyzing and writing up the results, but I also have to go go out into nature to get the data or samples to analyze. A bad day outside is always better than a good day inside.

    1. I’m a geologist, too! I’m in AZ. I only wish my job was more related to my love of geology and being outdoors to map/sample/walk/experience it. Where are you?

      1. Also a geologist, in Australia. But nowadays have a business in landscaping construction. All of my work is outdoors and I love it, except for the occasional days tramping through mud. Everything has it’s pros and cons, but I’d never go back to indoor work unless it was 2 days a week max… or I was starving.

  16. This is clearly why camping is so damn fine for my soul. I am a night shift worker, and working in a dimly lit building when I should be sleeping is killing me bit by bit. When I camp, I am utterly rejuvenated.

  17. This is good to remember even in the winter months.

    Most people fail to realize that our bodies are actually waterproof and that it takes a fair amount of exposure (of heat or cold) to have any real negative effects.

    1. This is true! People think I’m nuts that I take my daughter to the park in 20 degree weather. Like, I’m going to make her sick just because we’re outside.

      Oh, and nothing beats the peacefulness that is winter camping.

    2. Lol, every summer I have to acclimate my kids to other people being at the park. They get so used to it being deserted in the rainy “cold” of 40° winters.

    3. “Our bodies are actually waterproof” – AMEN! I can’t tell you the number of times people say they don’t want to go for a walk or run because it’s raining out – nothing better than a light rain to moisturize your skin, I say. And jumping in puddles is fun.

  18. I’m fortunate to work outside as much as, if not more than, I work outdoors. I do outdoor adventure education so I’m always climbing trees on the challenge course or taking kids mountain biking, hiking, camping, canoeing, or rock climbing. I think I would go insane if I had to spend more time working indoors than I already do.

    Today is one of those days that I’m stuck at the desk, but it’s a beautiful day and I’m sneaking out for a walk!

    1. What a perfect primal job!! And getting kids into outdoor activities to boot! (Is there some “jealousy emoticon” that I could end this with?)

  19. As much as I love the Colorado Rockies (mountains) I think I would most enjoy living in a Southern California beach town where my exercise and contact with nature each day wasn’t a hike but a scuba dive or snorkel. Oh I miss the ocean!

  20. What great timing. I literally just got back from going home for lunch, slipping into my bathing suit and getting some rays in the backyard while I ate my steak salad. I do it whenever it’s sunny. I now feel validated instead of guilty. 🙂

  21. It’s very appropriate that I read this while taking my lunch break outside, with my sleeves rolled up, sitting in the sun, with my shoes off and my feet in the grass. Unfortunately,doing clerkships on the hospital floors means there’s no chance of me taking my work outside, but I study outside as much as possible, and take as many breaks as I can outside, with my feet in the grass while making some vitamin D!

  22. I couldn’t agree more! Being inside all day makes me jumpy. Everyone at work laughed when I took a smaller office than I could have…I took it because the smaller one has 2 huge windows and the larger one was an interior office. I never turn on the florescent lights and I go outside in the middle of the day and walk for an hour. Office work will kill you if you don’t fight back!

  23. Story of my life! Too much work for too little pay…a boss that I hate…and a cubicle with NO WINDOWS ANYWHERE! It stresses me out…and I try not to let it.

    I have been brainstorming and researching to start my own business. Primal restaurant? Doggie Daycare? A farm? I want to spend my days doing what I love. I don’t even care if I make a lot of money.

    This also reminds me that my husband and I need to schedule a camping trip and a trip to the beach! We are also trying to introduce my stepson to fishing and camping since he has only been a couple times with boyscouts. That boy needs to experience reality instead of screaming at whatever shooting/killing game he is playing at the time. 🙁

    1. lol! I have been brainstorming, too! It’s hard to find a farm to work in LA, and starting my own business is scary, but I am really tired of a desk job, too. I’m working on it! baby steps

  24. My husband and I love to wander around and explore, just for the thrill of exploring. A nice outing for us is visiting a new park, haha! People miss what’s going on all the time, there is SO much life around you that people just sail past.
    Even walking home from Safeway, it’s not uncommon to see us bent over a plant studying a caterpillar we spotted, lol…

  25. I have had two jobs in the last 6 years and they are primarily desk jobs on average. I distinctly remember one night I was at the office at 9 pm in a salary job with no over time pay and I was so frustrated at because things weren’t going well. I got up, paced back and forth, looked at my “cubic hell” and shouted, “This is not my [insert choice cuss word here] life!!!”

    I knew then I would need to make getting out of the office a priority as soon as possible. Sadly, not there yet, but I certainly haven’t given up!

    For now, I do occasional, brief workouts during lunch, and I do them outside.

    As a geologist I love the outdoors. I hope to be my own boss someday or free enough to not need to work so much and enjoy every moment away from a desk, fluorescent lights, and caged rooms.

    Excellent post 🙂

  26. Ok, Mark. Now, not only do I have to convince my boss to let me have a stand-up work station but now I have to ask for my stand-up work station to be outside? Wish me luck, everyone!

  27. i am so fortunate that my office has a sliding glass door that acutally opens, and right outside is a (manmade) waterfall and brook, with lots of trees and bushes. i open my door first thing in the morning, and listen to running water and birds all day long. right now, as i type this, thunder is rolling! next best thing to being able to drag my desk outside…

  28. Yeah, I wish I could spend more time outdoors. Eventually, I may get to arrange that.

    But there are some times that I’m glad I don’t work outdoors. Like early last April, during a hailstorm (2- and 3-inch stones) that hammered the north DFW area (and smashed up cars near where I work). An un-armored person outdoors in that would probably have been killed.

  29. This article has gotten me out of my office and onto my deck in the backyard. Not sure why I don’t spend more time out here.

    I also got myself a laptop screen that doesn’t have glare so that I can use it outside. Wonderful invention!

  30. Well, work gave me a mobile phone and a laptop – no desk phone, no workstation. I do have to be in the office, but god meant us to be mobile and clearly so do my employers…

    Anyway, on the rare occasions we get some good weather in the uk, I have been known to take my work outside between 2-3:30. When working on one of the benches littered around the site, I have felt as fresh as I do first thing in the morning. Proper alert. I swear it’s little more than a fresh breeze and the sky above me, but to Mark’s central point, I’m sure it’s my body’s way of repaying me for being (somewhat) amongst nature.

    I used to be very much a city boy, but in my late 20s now, that has flipped on its head. I feel a certain disappointment when I’m out in the parkland near work at lunch and buildings loom back into view…

  31. I work in an almost windowless office, and am lucky if I get a glipse of sun while I’m in there. Fortunately, we live in a decent climate (Souteastern NC) and have an outdoor gym within walking distance to our building. If it wasn’t for that hour or two at lunch we can go grab a quick workout, I’d feel like a mole-person. It also helps me get my daily does of vitamin D and not feel like a total slug at quitting itme.

  32. I totally connect with this article. The one thing I truly do love about my job is how we have giant floor to ceiling windows and can actually see the outdoors and at home, I always try to set up my desk and workstations as close to windows as possible. That said, I’m sure it’d be better to be outside for real!

  33. Mark–

    As a Christian I don’t believe in millions of years of evolution– but you and I can agree on one thing. God placed man and woman in a garden– around trees and plants and fruit and they were naked! Not too far from the ideas you espouse of hiking, taking forest baths, and commiserating with animals!
    He didn’t create us for sitting down in a cave and thumbing a playstation, and in a perfect world your primal eating would be universal and we’d all be healthy as God intended.

  34. Sadly, here in Missouri it was announced that several of our state parks will have free wi-fi due to popular demand. I am about as connected (and addicted) to connectivity as you can get but value not even being able to connect in some places.

    1. Also from Missouri and I feel the same way. Unfortunately its a simple matter of supply and demand. I few years ago I spent a week down on the Buffallo River in Arkansas. I checked and every place we camped along the river we had cell service. I know there are still some places out west where that is not the case but its getting less and less everyday. Outside magazine had an article awhile back about the 3g service on Mt Everest….sheesh

  35. It’s a nice idea, but so many millions of people are compressed into cities which simply do not have green spaces. I mean, NO green spaces – not even gardens.

    Terraces, high rise flats … what green space there might be is covered in glass, used condoms and drug needles.

    Sadly, green space is fast becoming the prerogative of those who have money. These are people without cars, too, let alone the money to fill a car with petrol and drive out anywhere.

    It is a bleak picture for millions of people. “They paved paradise …” …

    Still, a nice idea.

  36. How timely! I was just thinking of taking my laptop outside to work today – it’s gorgeous out.

  37. A couple weeks ago I went for a multi-day hike. I pitched my tent next to a tiny stream in the desert. The stream was mostly just muddy rocks and a few tiny clear puddles. I was awakened in the night by the sound of trickling water. Later I was awakened again and I swore it sounded like a babbling brook. In the morning I went to the creek and it was full and flowing! I have hiked thousands of miles and have never witnessed this before. One thing that gets lost in our domesticated lives is that childlike sense of wonder. I was filled with wonder over the beauty of this creek and I lingered over my breakfast that morning watching amazingly beautiful birds enjoy this magical creek with me.

  38. I work from home and work outside for at least a few hours whenever the weather permits. Working from home by itself is less stressful, and getting to be outside is just a bonus.

  39. I have begun to get up earlier and earlier just to walk a few miles before anyone else in my home is up. It’s wonderful.
    I wasn’t able to walk this morning before I had to go to another town, but once I got there I parked and walked all around to do my errands. I even sat on the edge of a pier on the lake, painted a small watercolour and read a bit of my book. It was all so delightful!
    It didn’t even matter that it was 50*.
    Being outdoors rejuvenates me.
    I am heading over to read the Forest Bathing link smiling. Yesterday my husband and I decided on where in our grove to put my “new” clawfoot tub….

  40. I agree. Working 8 hours everyday in a cubicle is a horrible way to live. I am lucky I have a window right by my desk and get to go out a few times.

    Otherwise I would go crazy!

  41. Down here in Australia, things are getting built up at an alarming rate. We are lucky, we have never had to live where we work, and because my other half works in the maritime industry, he is away for chunks of time. So 25 years ago we bought a small farm, and raised 3 lovely boys in the dirt, grass and bugs. They comment now on how they wouldn’t tolerate working indoors as their upbringing has always been without walls. We know we are privileged and in a way that’s sad, as it seems to me to be a human right rather than a privilege to have some connection with the landscape. The landscape informs my art and the care of our patch and it’s livestock (lambing at the moment), is uppermost in our minds, we wouldn’t be anywhere else.
    Cheers

  42. I love hiking, there’s a trail I go to nearly every day the weather permits. The trail is approximately 1 mile from the bottom to the top with an elevation change of more than 1000 feet.
    At the top there’s a flat rock that juts out over a small cliff and overlooks the plains where I lay out and catch some rays in privacy while reading a book. Physical activity, therapeutic walk in the forest and no tan lines.

  43. I work indoors but I incorporate the outdoors by jogging there when the weather is good. I love exercising outdoors and before work is the best time for it!

  44. Good to see a few other primal geologists here! I’m also a geo, who works in central Australia. In a good year I’ll spend up to 3 months working in the field. We are often “out bush” for 2-3 weeks at a time and are completely self-sufficient. I spend my days hiking and my evenings around the campfire. I work in some of the most remote and beautiful places in Australia and feel utterly blessed to have such an amazing job.

  45. I would still like to know how come you have not written a blog entry on how Esselstyn is able to reverse heart disease with a no oil no animal products diet consisting of grains, fruit and veggies. He has the scientific proof of what he has accomplished with his patients. It looks as though this would be at the top of your list to write about unless you cant defend your diet against his.

  46. I work outside every day. It’s hot, humid and I have weird tan lines. But…at least it’s not a cubicle!

  47. I haven’t read all the posts but I suspect I’m the only one who doesn’t want to work outside. I had a job where I sometimes went out with government field biologists. They, of course, had gone into their field so they could be out in nature. Instead, they spent 90+% of their time in meetings and doing paperwork. So they wanted to stay out long after all the work they were there to do was done. To me, it was hot, dusty, buggy, air full of pollen, boring. Working outside . . . pfft!

    1. Heat, dust, bugs and pollen might be deterents, but “boring”? Every time I am outside, I almost don’t know where to look! Finches flying every which way, flowering blue-eyed grass in the lawn, fiddlehead ferns massing in the woods, hawks soaring over the fields, the dog sniffing everywhere and running for joy, the cats hunting chipmunks and fieldmice… not to mention the smell of lilacs in bloom and fresh-mown hay, the chirps and songs of a couple dozen birds. Boring? Soothing, yes, but boring, never!

  48. I’ve been a bike courier since 1992, and I sincerely hope that I never need to get a “grown-up’s” job. Outside in all weather, moderate exercise (small city), friendly chatting all day long with receptionists and bank tellers etc… I used to ironically describe it as “Living… The Dream” due to the comparatively low income, but the ironic aspect has faded over the years 🙂

  49. The best birthday present I ever gave myself was a season ticket for the tram. I live about 15 min way from it. It takes 15 min to take me up to another world of over 10,000 feet. I spend one to one and a half hours up there 2-3 times a week. I stroll around in the sun gazing at various stones and wild flowers and listening to the wind in the trees and the birds here in NM. I’ve lived here 15 years and wish I had discovered this earlier. I was wearing a tee shirt the other day and tolerated the 25 deg. F temp wind chill very well. I feel like I have a spa in my back yard!

  50. It’s depressing how difficult it is to connect with nature these days. My primary goal in life right now is to develop a career in which I can telecommute – primarily to be able to move out of the city!

  51. Love this! I completely feel recharged when I exercise outdoors, which is why I go trail running in a nearby forest every weekend. For decades, I worked in a corporate job trapped inside a building, going from one white-walled room to the next all day long. That lifestyle was killing me. So, 2 years ago I left it. Now I work where and when I want, with plenty of time to exercise and cook my own Paleo and Primal meals from fresh ingredients. I lost 40 lbs and feel fantastic. I don’t think that my laptop and I can ever let ourselves be trapped inside the walls of some corporation ever again.

  52. Doing a little target practice with no shirt on is a good outside activity. A 9lb rifle with no bench to rest it on builds muscle and fine motor control.

  53. I’m outside everyday at work – I’m a Police Officer. I’m often asked if I plan on putting in for the detective division. My answer for the last 15 years has been nope, I have no desire to sit at a desk inside. While a lot of my day is sitting and driving, I’m outside and I can control where my office goes for the most part. If I plan things right, I can do some foot patrols.
    Now, if I could manage to swing a lateral transfer to some place like Wyoming…

  54. I notice I am much more creative-feeling when I’m outside. I like to write sometimes but my best ideas always come to me when I’m outside. Also, I go hiking at least once a week but when it is a full week between hikes before I get into the forest, I feel close to drunk once I get there. A few days ago, I spent an hour on the trail (it’s only 1.2 miles – I spent some time just sitting at my favorite secluded area) and when I left, I felt like I’d been dreaming the whole time I was in there – like a simple hike was suddenly so surreal. I gotta get out more >.> I was outside for some 3ish hours earlier though… that was nice.

  55. The necessity of living in healthy ways – which include but are not limited to: eating well, having time to care for my body, being in spaces that nurture me instead of poison me, playing, and being able to expand my intellectual horizons – never ceases to astound me. I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how much I might love my work, I need to find a way to do it that puts the integrity of my life first, not second.

    I’m a teacher – long days walled up in classrooms herding kids around certainly keeps me on my toes, and I am in love with my students, but it’s a rare day I’m not sick of the florescents and linoleum when the last bell rolls around. Things have already started changing – bringing my own lunch, making my desk a standing station, wearing minimalist shoes – but it’s time to take things further.

    How are you going to spend your one and only life? Not in a place that makes me tired just thinking about it. Time for a change.

  56. Thanks for inspiring us and encourage us us so that we can go for outing so as to release our mental tensions .I think this is the best way to have a good and healthy life as it really works.

  57. i live in crowded in nj. the preserved open space makes it bearable. if we don’t get invloved politically in trying to preserve openspace or pay attention to zoning laws, there will be no nature to retreat to.

  58. After years of working extended hours in a lab, often labs with no windows (bio-containment, etc.), I became a translator, working from home in a rural area. When I moved here, the first order of business was to get a dog so that, even on days when my own initiative was lacking, I would get outside and move. Twelve years later, I still get outside with her every day. And my office window overlooks our increasingly woodsy yard, hayfields, spruce forests, the St. Lawrence, various islands and the North Shore about 15 miles off. Anytime I get sick of staring at the screen, I just lift my eyes to the window and absorb a nice infusion of nature. When it is warm enough to have the windows open, I am serenaded by constant birdcalls from cheerful visitors to our many birdfeeders.

    Not to put too fine a point on things, but I was treated for depression for two years before escaping lab life. Some of that was due to pretty profound undiagnosed hypothyroidism, but some was certainly due to living without much exposure to sunlight or nature.

    1. Translation is a really sweet gig. I’ve translated a few books myself, and the “work from anywhere” nature of that business is just wonderful.

      I took a vacation in Costa Rica a few years ago, and took my translation project with me. I did some of it while sitting on a terrace overlooking the lush rainforest, with a sloth hanging upside-down on a nearby tree, keeping me company. It was that experience that helped convince me that self-employment was the only way to go.

      Now I work as a patent attorney (though I do have another translation project going), and that’s another “work from anywhere” gig – I can do my work from home or from anywhere that has an Internet connection. I’m thinking of taking another trip to Costa Rica…

  59. It’s good to put the ideal situation out there like this article does, and can guide how we shape our lives and have something to move toward even if we can’t all do it and do it right away. I take my portable laptop station called a Zen Office™ to the park in the summer with my laptop, sit in the shade, and can focus because I’m so relaxed. http://www.zafu.net/zenoffice.html

  60. LOVING my new little garden…I haven’t had one in years, and we’ve got very little sun, but container gardening works just fine and I’m loving it…

  61. Working outside is attractive in many ways, but I think this says a lot about our buildings and architecture. We can build more friendly work environments. This involves bringing natural light and fresh air in.

    I believe that a large part of the reason people dislike their jobs is a reflection of the poorly designed environment they feel locked up in.

  62. For me, this post is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to lifestyle change. I work 60+ hour weeks at a computer under fake lights with no windows in a litigation firm in Seattle. I also have a 4 year old. Between work and life craziness, there are too many days when my outside exposure is my walk from the front door to my car door and back. I hate it. It sucks.

    So, this year I decided my goal for this summer is to obtain naturally tan legs by the end of August. We will see how I do. 😉

  63. Any good anti glare type stuff for the laptops anybody know of?

  64. I am lucky enough to spend most of the year working every summer as a research assistant for ecological research programs. Currently I’m working on small mammal abundance in California’s largest grassland. Every day I feel the sun on my face, move my body, and lift heavy things. More than that, I get to work my brain and contribute to scientific knowledge! Couldn’t agree more with this post, as my job couldn’t ake me happier!

    1. What degree do you need to work in this field? I work in a hospital but long to work outside and have been eyeing a career change (for lots of reasons), and care deeply about preserving biodiversity… what you describe sounds amazing.

  65. WOW! I’ve been doing this and not even realizing it! I run in the local park most mornings, and as part of my cool down, I do stretches and a little mediation in the small woodland area. Those “green nature” 10 minutes a day, make all the difference to my day! I get grouchy if I haven’t had my kick about the leaves or listened to the birds on a daily basis!

  66. I work in a spacious new lab where we fought hard to get a window after 3 years of being in a dungeon lab with no contact with the outdoors.
    But while most of my co-workers sit all day I am constantly moving, and when they stay inside for lunch I skip eating and head for our local Greenway for a walk or run– I come back refreshed, having exercised and gotten some much needed Vitamin D! Now if I could just move my workstation to the roof!

  67. Hi Mark

    I wonder if you could advise me on getting my body back to how it was 18 months ago…?

    I believe I’ve developed hyperthyroidism; thing is, I can’t get a doc over here to take me seriously cos they all blame my diet (which, due to my transient nature, is certainly not primal anymore; I’ve nowhere to cook anything, and I eat FAR TOO MUCH cow juice-based stuff. I try to counter this with egg protein powder and caseinate, and I take MCT oil, but it’s expensive and bulky to cart around). I just want to SCREAM at them “YOU’RE WRONG!!! Just cos you spent 5-7 years at med school, doesn’t make you right!” The last time I attempted to get one to take me seriously (and I won’t lie; for a start I’m autistic, and too honest for my own good sometimes, and second – why the hell should I…?! I’m right, they’re wrong and that’s that! This’ll make you laugh: – when I first attempted to get a diagnosis, last year my GP, who was at least 6 sizes bigger than me, told me she’d just spent nearly £2k on hypnosis in an attempt to shed the 4 stone she wanted to lose (and what did she have in her desk drawer…? Ryvita (rye crackers with all the texture and flavour of cardboard!) granola bars and dried apricots!) I lent her Taubes (Why We Get Fat). She gave it back with the comment “I don’t think I’ll be trying this – and neither should you; you’ll end up diabetic, with CHD and probably die of a stroke!” I told her that by following his advice I cured my type 2, needless to say she didn’t believe me! It’s staggering how little doctors know about basic human physiology! 

    Sorry, I’m rambling again (it’s an autistic thing!). Anyway, I know my thyroid’s gone nuts (I’m textbook) and I’ve lost much of the muscle I built up doing PF. I’m losing my hair, I’ve not had a period for at least 9 months (and I’ve got PCOS, so they were always erratic), my body’s s complete mess. I don’t sleep much, I’ve no energy and I go out even less than I used to because it’s made me agoraphobic (anxiety is one of the symptoms). I used to LOVE going to the Camp (so called cos it was a Roman encampment) to practise ‘Grok sprinting’ (often with a weighted backpack) and to climb the massive hornbeam in the middle. It’s also got plenty of rocks I used for some of the WOW challenges. 

    The very WORST aspect, is the bloating. Using a combo of you and Taubes, I dropped my bf% to around 15 (gods only know what it was before!). These days, I bloat so much I don’t know what size I’m going to wake up (I got down to a 0-2, and most odd my clothes still fit, thank gods but, very often, I can’t wear a bra because my chest becomes too swollen. The fact that I become constipated very quickly doesn’t help (“that’s because you’re not eating whole grains” was my GP’s response – predictable, eh…?) because, as I understand it, hyperthyroidism causes the water to be sucked out of the waste matter very quickly. It also causes a great deal of gas – at my worst, I look 5 months pregnant (I’ve photos of me in that state) and it’s incredibly painful. I have to take 3 pieces of Ex-Lax nightly (do you have that over there? It’s senna in chocolate form; I can’t take senna pills as they become lodged in my throat (they’re uncoated, very rough, and about the size of a dime). I’m thinking that because my thyroid’s enlarged it could be preventing them going down. 

    Now, it’s as much as I can do carry shopping the 0.75 mile from town. Eating makes me so tired I tend to eat as little as possible (and when I say tired, I mean I literally collapse, so I tend to eat only at night). I still eat very low carb, but my O3:O6 ratios must be completely whacked out! Unlike over there, I can’t buy decent supplements here (take O3 for example: – the largest health store chain sells soft gels containing just 300mg O3 each; there’s even a dire warning on the bottle not to exceed 3 gels daily! I reckon to get a decent dose, I’d need to take a bottle a day (a bottle’s only 100 gels) – I don’t have £300pcm to spend on O3 (I’m on welfare). I used to buy from iHerb, but I can no longer afford the customs duty/VAT. The only thing I buy from over there now is stevia, as the dude I buy it from marks it as a gift meaning I don’t pay fees. 

    Can you help me…? I spend  lot of time in tears (especially when I run across photos of me when I was fit). I’m at my folks at the mo, so I’m buying steak again (not grass-fed, though, although I’ve discovered a company which does grass-fed burgers (just beef, onion, herbs, garlic and that’s it! No grainy crap!) £12/$18kg – I just can’t find anywhere which sells them round here!). Think they pass as Primal!) eggs, veggies, EVCO, sardines in EVOO, avocados, olives, macs, berries and 100% cacao choc. 

    I’m attempting to cut down the dairy (I’ve switched to sheep’s yoghurt and goats cream – but it’s 5 times more expensive than cow’s. I want to buy raw milk, but it’s illegal to sell it commercially here. When I was a nipper, we spent our summers on a farm. They had 250 head of Channel Island cows; I drank raw milk and cream every single day. They also made their own butter and clotted cream (clotted cream can’t be raw because it’s cooked). Didn’t do me any harm! They had 4 kids, and they were all raised on it. I can still remember the taste… 

    The only reason I really have the cream now is because I use it to take something with (not sure I can say what as it’s illegal in the US, I think, but not over here) as it masks its bitterness and makes it easier to swallow. Curiously, heavy cows works better than heavy goats cream. It helps with my autisticness. 

    I know this is long, but I hope you can help! If there’s one thing I know about you, Mark, is that you always help if you can…

    Thank you, dude!

    Sarah 

  68. A great manifesto for slowing down and going home – to nature.

    Our genome is nature based. It’s only in the last few thousands of years that we ‘evolved’ to be so civilized.

    We all need a place and time to be renewed.

  69. I’ve posted here before about my job as a PE teacher. I love my job August – the end of October & April-Maywhen i can be outdoors the majority of the time. But the rest of the time being stuck in the gym almost kills me! I describe myself as solar- I thrive on sunlight.

  70. I saw a presentation on an outdoor education library program at the last state library convention. As soon as I am in a position of leadership as a librarian I plan to institute a similar program at my own library. Building literacy and science skills with a good dose of mother nature? Yes please!

  71. I do believe this plays a part in my improved health since I quit my full time desk job last september. I was working in a basement! I spent the majority of my life without windows, with no contact to the outside world. I was miserable. It felt entirely unnatural to have no connection with the weather or seasons or other natural rhythm of life. Now I work part time in a coffee shop. While I work in the kitchen with no windows, I’m still active, on my feet, and have access to the front of the shop, which is half windows. 🙂 I am much happier for it!

  72. My non-smoking workmates and I have remarked often on the irony that our smoking co-workers get outside for 20 minute breaks multiple times a day. Back when I was a nursing mother, my wonderful boss told me to take those breaks to pump milk without shame or worry because, “Joy, look out at the patio when you walk to the first aid room. See who’s out there smoking. See how they are STILL out there when you’re walking back to your cube. Remember that when your daughter is weaned, that these people will STILL be standing out in the sunshine 3 years from now.” Pretty neat. I’ve thought about taking up “mock smoking” for my health.

  73. I’m looking forward to the ‘how.’ Can I get a shade for my screen so that I can read it outside in the sunshine?

  74. Currently stationed in Germany and the village I live in is surrounded by a nature preserve. I try to get out there as much as possible. It is nice sometimes to just get away and sit in the forest and listen to the sounds and even find some lost forgotten Roman roadway…

  75. I am a clinical recuriter for two hospitals and it kills me if I don’t get outside at some point. The ladies I work with never leave the office. Since we’re located in the basement at each facility I have to go outside for 10-15 minute stretches just to keep my sanity. Even if its raining outside I still have to get out.

  76. I’ve been doing a lot more gardening in the past couple of years and it’s had a very beneficial effect on my stress levels.

    I spend a fair amount of time outdoors — usually with my camera. I like to take my Land Rover off road and spend a good chunk of time out in the woods.

    I’ve got a question for you though: Since I started Primal (which I did for Type 2 Diabetes and I’ve dramatically reduced my blood glucose levels — back to normal with no meds!) I’ve become a lot less attractive to bugs in general and mosquitoes in particular.

    I used to get bitten to death walking from my house to my car some days (I live near a salt marsh, we have mosquitoes). Yesterday I was out in the woods, everyone else was slathered in bug spray and still getting bit. I passed on the spray and only picked up 2 bites (instead of my usual 10-20)

    So, does the Primal diet make one less attractive to bugs?

  77. Speaking of “stink”…

    It would be great if I could go outside more. I love to be outside and do things outside. However most of the time the air is filled with toxic laundry fumes that make me really ill and often cause unconsciousness. I opened my garage door yesterday and these thick stinky ass toxic laundry fumes poured inside. The entire street was filled with it. Now how can I go outside when the air is thick with toxic fumes that make me sick? Can’t even open the windows. It took 3 hours with the garage door open for it to air out after the fumes died down. So people make sure you aren’t poisoning the air with toxic laundry fumes!

  78. Im sorry bro, but I just cant agree. The outdoors, by and large, only make me nervous for long periods of time. ALlow me to expand.

    When I was a wee-little boy, I admit I did my fair share of tear-assing around the backyard of my Grandma’s house – which was a pretty huge back yard. Getting scrapes and exhausting myself and swimming in the pool and all that.

    And then, one year, I went to a camp.

    Within a week, I was a nervous wreck. I was literally beyond miserable. I ended up so fundamentally paranoid that they actually called an ambulance to get me out of the camp. Im sure some of this was not being near people I knew and trusted (I have other mental disabilities, including acute ADHD and high-functioning Autism which may have contributed to this.) but I found, in the years to come that on the one or two occaisons I would be invited to a cabin or to go camping, I thoroughly hated the experience. To me, Civilization, safety, life was “In Here” not “Out There”.

    Even today while I will take walks through a local park or to one place or another, I find I cannot stand being so ‘exposed’ for very long – unless Im walking on sidewalks or similar places of obvious civilization where I feel somehow inherently comfortable.

    I know a lot of you will find this insane, but believe me, this is genuinely how I feel – I feel far safer, alive and happy inside a man-made enviroment than in a natural one – Genetics be damned.

  79. Great post! Luckily I get to work from home on Fridays, so in the warm months I always take my laptop outside and sit in my back yard….I love Fridays!

  80. I went one stage further and quit being a detective and now work for myself as a horticulturalist! It’s geat although you become very influenced by the weather which here in England is sometimes not so good….

  81. If one is living close enough to one’s neighbor that you could shoot them with anything less than a high powered rifle… you are living to close to them.

    I decided that being outside, in whatever nature had to throw at me was the most important thing in my life; fifty years ago… I was ten. Being a farmer and mountain guide makes it essential, and living in the South sland of NZ makes it wonderful.

  82. My husband, 18 month old son and I moved to a new house in a small , seemingly rural town. We moved in February, and just being able to watch the trees, plants, flowers, and grass grow has been the perfect soul food. Our backyard is a SUPER private nature haven that we take full advantage of everynight after work as long as the weather allows. After the baby goes to bed, my husband and i sit on a swing outside and chat. The best therapy anyone could ever get is a visit outdoors. We’ve both noticed that since we’ve moved from our old place, our temperments have made a complete 180. LOVE being outside.

  83. I don’t work outside, but after 5 days a week of cucbible work, I decided to change things. I moved to Australia, work 4 days a week, and spend 3 days traveling, hiking and surfing throughout australia with my mini-van, meeting awesome people on the go.

    The 4 days fly by in the office, because I’m a software developer working on interesting projects. But the 3 days off were crucial to my mental and physical health.