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5 New Year’s Restorations

Time outside helps you bring your best self forward – no matter what your goals are for the new year.

6 Min. Read | Winter

Making goals for the new year can be both exciting and a little scary. How many times have you made a list of new year’s resolutions, only to watch them slip away one by one? Setting yourself up for success might be as simple as stepping out your door. Here are 5 ways that spending time outside to help you feel and be your best this year, along with stories from L.L.Bean Ambassadors about how it helps them achieve their goals.

1. Take a Walk for Greater Creativity and Focus

If your goals for the new year include creative projects or work achievements, time outside can put you in the right mindset to accomplish them, by helping you stay focused, mindful and present. Often it’s as simple as taking a walk.

The Science:

A walk outdoors can help calm your racing thoughts and allow you to focus on the here and now. In one study in Psychological Science, researchers found that “just an hour spent walking in nature improved participants’ attention spans and memory by 20%.” In another study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, 81% of participants who took a walk outdoors experiences “enhanced creative thinking.” So when it comes to finishing that novel or completing that assignment, a walk outside can make all the difference.

L.L.Bean Ambassadors Say:

"For me, time spent outside is my go-to recalibration," says Lea Davison, a champion cyclist and environmental advocate. "If I’m feeling down, upset, or stuck, I go outside and things always seem a little bit clearer and better. I always feel better when I move outside."

2. Jog Around the Block for Increased Self Esteem

Maybe you want to try something new this year – step out of your comfort zone and take a risk, or start a new habit and really stick with it. When you feel the urge to talk yourself out of trying something new, or beat yourself up about some setback, spend a few moments exercising outside. It’s quite likely you’ll feel a lot better about yourself when you come back in.

The Science:

In one study from the University of Essex, participants took part in a range of outdoor activities, from gardening to sailing – and every single one led to an almost immediate improvement in self-esteem and mood. So it really doesn’t matter how you get out there, just that you get out there, where a little perspective and distance is easy to come by.

L.L.Bean Ambassadors Say:

For Mirna Valerio, the act of getting out and getting in motion is enough to remind her of why she’s out there in the first place, even when the intrusive thoughts come in. “I don’t allow my self-doubting chatter to take over,” she says. “My legs know what to do, and so does my heart. That is how I push past those doubts.”

3. Marvel at a Sunset for More Resilience

No matter what you have planned for the new year, life has a way of throwing some challenges and obstacles in your way. If you want meet those new challenges with resilience and positivity, time outdoors can help. Experiencing something awe-inspiring, like the glow of a sunset, can help you see things in a new light – no pun intended. As our founder L.L. put it, time outdoors helps us “forget the mean and petty things of life.”

The Science:

Dr. Paul Piff, associate professor of psychology at UC Irvine, has partnered with L.L.Bean to study the positive effects of time outdoors – and his findings back up our founder’s insight. According to new research, time outdoors is linked to more resilience in the face of life's challenges. Being in the presence of the sheer scale and beauty of the outdoors can help us find new perspective on our challenges, and feel equipped to better handle life’s difficulties.

L.L.Bean Ambassadors Say:

“Life’s kind of like a cross-country ski race,” says Kikkan Randall, drawing on her own outdoor experience as a champion racer. “You encounter these climbs, and as you're going up the climb, it's uncomfortable. You know, maybe you even fall down, or you slide backwards a little bit. The trick is, you know, staying focused, staying patient. And taking that one step at a time, because when you get to the top, then you experience a view that you never even knew was possible.”

4. Go Outside Together for Deeper Relationships

Sometimes our most important resolutions are focused not on ourselves, but on others. Being a better partner, being more present for family or seeking out new friendships are all goals that can improve your relationships in the new year. Spending time outdoors together – whether that’s a camping trip, an evening of stargazing or a walk in the backyard – can make your connections with others more powerful.

The Science:

Dr. Piff’s research shows that shared experiences outdoors are richer and more meaningful. Because of the awe we feel outdoors, we feel like we’re part of something bigger – what researchers refer to as “the small self.” That makes us become prosocial, and act in ways that are positive and helpful. In short, we’re better to the people around us.

L.L.Bean Ambassadors Say:

According to Troy Brooks, time outdoors has “definitely” made him a better dad. “The outdoors has allowed me to connect with my son with no distractions; it has also allowed me to reconnect with nature, looking at birds, trees, flowers, and all of nature's beauty through my son's eyes.”

"Being outdoors has become a way for us to connect, both to nature and to each other," says Madison Bowman, whose family set out in a converted shuttle bus to visit all 50 U.S. National Parks. "It's a way for us to remember our place in the world—big enough to have an impact, small enough to stay humble and in a state of wonder."

5. Hit the Trail to Lower Stress

Need a break from anxiety or stress? A hike in the woods isn’t just good for your physical health – it can provide a boost to your mental health, too. So when you’re trekking through the woods to a mountaintop, your destination might actually be a calmer mind.

The Science:

Studies have shown that a whopping 95% of people experience a decrease in stress when outside. And it’s not just how you feel; spending time outside also effects the way you think. In a Stanford University study, researchers found that a 90-minute walk outdoors reduced activity in the areas of the brain linked with sadness and withdrawal.

L.L.Bean Ambassadors Say:

“Hiking helps me cope with the craziness of working, raising four children and countless doctor appointments,” says Melody Forsyth. “I have a lot of stress. But when I get on the trail, I can immediately feel it go away. I have a happiness I can’t explain.”

Whether you’re talking to researchers or simply folks who spend a lot of time outside, it’s clear that being out there is good for us – mentally and physically. No matter how ambitious your resolutions for the new year, time outside can put you in the right headspace to approach your goals – or just make your year better.

Explore our Get Outside Guide to learn more about how time outside can relieve stress and boost your mental wellness; find everyday tips for getting outside when working from home or the office; read inspiring stories about finding resilience in the outdoors from ambassadors like Mirna Valerio and Kikkan Randall; and get expert advice for making the most of your time outside.

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