The Mental Health Benefits of being Outdoors
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I need to get a breath of fresh air”? It turns out that it’s not just an idiom we often use when we’re feeling tired, down, or stressed. There’s actually science that supports the idea of spending time outdoors to boost your mental health. Now that it’s finally getting warmer outside, you should consider connecting with nature to help yourself feel better.
Not convinced that this really works? Let’s look into how nature can improve your mood and what you can do to implement this idea into your daily routine.
There is a strong correlation between nature and good mental health. The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment recently published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that points to higher incidents of anxiety disorders (20% higher) and mood disorders (40% higher) in city dwellers where there is a lack of green-space versus people in rural areas.
Brain scans show that walking outdoors decreases neural activity in the brain region (prefrontal cortex) active during rumination—repetitive thoughts focused on negative emotions. Basically, being in nature helps calm your mind, focus on the peaceful and beautiful surroundings, and regulate emotions that you might often get stuck on.
Even getting some sun can make you feel better. A lack of vitamin D can led to symptoms of depression and one of the leading causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Research shows that getting Vitamin D from the sun increases the amount of monoamines, such as serotonin (the happy chemical!) in our brains. Who knew that enjoying the sunshine could actually make you happier?
There are many ways to enjoy some time in nature. You can go walking, running, or bike riding. You can wander through a park, sit near a pond or lake to enjoy the view, or garden on your front lawn. Even reading a book on your porch or front steps is a way to get some fresh air. Enjoy the nice weather now that it’s finally arrived!
Many people feel better—more at ease, more energetic, and uplifted—when they go outside. So, if you are feeling down, anxious or overwhelmed—get yourself out in the grass, surround yourself with flora, fauna and nature, take a deep breath, and keep it moving. Doing this regularly can led to overall improved mental health and well-being.