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Mental Health Benefits of the Outdoors

By June 26, 2020 No Comments

Nature is Good for Your Mental Health

Mental Health Benefits of the Outdoors - Lifeworks Counseling CenterWe understand that during this age of social distancing and self-isolation, it’s difficult to do anything outside of your home without fear of contracting COVID-19. To protect themselves from the coronavirus, thousands of people have isolated themselves indoors, avoiding leaving their homes unless for essential work or errands, like visiting the doctor or going to the grocery store. While staying indoors does keep you away from those infected with the coronavirus, it also has quite an impact on your mental health.

Humans are naturally social beings. We have evolved this way to ensure our survival by building relationships that benefit all parties. By self-isolating, we disrupt our social lives. However, there are other impacts of staying indoors that many people don’t realize. Are you aware of the countless mental health benefits of the outdoors? The outdoors and nature provide your mind and body with countless benefits that you cannot get while locked inside. It’s crucial to the health of your mind and body to spend plenty of time in nature.

There are countless mental health benefits of the outdoors, which is why everyone should be taking some time out of their day in nature. We understand how hard on many people’s mental health these last few months have been. Today, we are going to be exploring the mental health benefits of the outdoors. However, if you or a loved one is struggling with your mental health, contact Lifeworks Counseling Center to learn how we can be of assistance.

Impact of the Outdoors

While we all feel comfortable in our homes, it’s not particularly healthy to remain indoors all the time. Your mind and body need to be outside to encounter certain nutrients the outdoors provides. Countless benefits of the outdoors can improve your mental state. One in five U.S. adults struggle with a mental illness each year, and one in 25 experiences serious mental illness. Spending some quality time outdoors can help relieve their mental illness symptoms.

Reduces Stress

The world is full of stress, no matter where you go. While there are plenty of healthy stressors in the world, like the ones that keep you out of danger, there are also a host of bad ones. America is one of the most stressed countries in the world, with 55% of Americans reporting feelings of stress daily. Many different factors can lead to increased levels of stress, and this stress can impact both your physical and mental health.

However, spending just 20-30 minutes outside has proven to reduce stress levels. Even gardening has shown to improve your symptoms of stress. A Japanese study that focused on the effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing) found that just a short period outdoors can reduce cortisol levels, the natural chemical found in your body that causes stress. Being outside relieves muscle tension and helps reduce stress.

Boosts Mood

There are elements of the outdoors that you cannot find nor replicate inside. Direct sunlight and fresh air are two things you cannot find while indoors, and both offer numerous benefits for your mind and body. Natural sunlight exposure can improve your mood and overall self-esteem. Studies have shown that people’s brains have higher levels of serotonin on bright and sunny days, regardless if it was warm or cold out. Serotonin is your body’s natural mood stabilizer, and it helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety while boosting your mood. More studies suggest that UV light encourages melanocytes, the cell that produces dark skin pigment, to release endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemical.

Fights Depression and Anxiety

Spending time outdoors reduces your symptoms of anxiety and depression. An analysis of ten studies found that spending time in a green environment improved mood and self-esteem. Those struggling with mental illness saw significant increases in their self-esteem and saw a reduction in their depression symptoms.

Ecotherapy is a type of formal treatment that supplements other treatments. It involves exercising or doing regular activities outside in nature. It has proven on several occasions to help with mild cases of depression.

Puts Your Mind at Ease

Spending time in nature also helps your mind rest. The world is full of stressors, whether they be from work, personal relationships, or financial issues. Sometimes, you need to escape from these stressors to rest your mind. Being outdoors allows your mind to decompress and normalize. Spending time in nature is also a great way to practice mindfulness, as it allows you to be present in the moment and clear your mind. The daily stress of life can weigh on you and lead to mental fatigue. Studies have found that restorative environments, like nature, have been useful in getting your mind back on track and energized.

Helps You Exercise

We have spoken time and time again about the impact exercising has on your mental health. Much of spending time outdoors does involve some form of exercise, whether it involves gardening, going for a walk, or hiking. Exercise helps reduce your blood pressure, which is a common symptom of stress. It also releases endorphins, which boosts your mood. If you have a routine that you do from home, take it outside and see how much of a difference that makes. Outdoor exercises often leave individuals feeling rejuvenated, both mentally and physically.

What You Can Do

There is no right or wrong way to spend time outdoors. After all, each activity provides you with all the benefits of the outdoors. However, if you don’t know where to start, we have provided some easy activities to get you outside.

  • Go for a walk or run.
  • Take a bike ride along a trail.
  • Go camping.
  • Take a hike.
  • Garden.
  • Move your workout outside.
  • Meditate or do yoga outside.
  • Have a picnic in the park.
  • Go for a swim.
  • Birdwatch.

These are just a handful of activities you can do to reap the mental health benefits of the outdoors. While we all enjoy the comfort of our homes, the indoors do not present the same health benefits as being outside. You can improve your mental health by spending just 20-30 minutes a day in nature. If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental illness, give Lifeworks Counseling Center a call today and let us help you live life well again.

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