7 Mental Health Benefits from Spending Time Outside

Taking a trip into the outdoors can have all kinds of mental health benefits. 

Historically, Western society has been shifting more and more to the indoors. Working in some kind of office was seen as the way for people to better their social status. People moved from rural situations to urban ones in a flood during the Industrial Revolution. 

As our gaze turned inwards for the average workman, we lost sight of the value of fresh air and natural lighting. 

Only recently has the trend begun to change as the pandemic has made more people aware of the effect our working environments can have on our mental health. 

That has meant an increased focus on research concerning the average person’s need for the outdoors to support their mental health. We have laid out some of the top benefits scientists have found for engaging with the outdoors from that research.

7 Mental Health Benefits from Spending Time Outside

Reduce Stress

Stress is quite the killer for people in our modern society. Long-term, increased levels of stress have the power to cause all kinds of heart conditions, along with other parts of the body. It also has impacts on your daily functioning since it can impair your ability to think creatively.

Research teams worldwide, including Japan and Holland, have found that time in nature can make a significant impact. For example, spending as little as 20 to 30 minutes in nature each day can significantly reduce your cortisol levels.

Boost Your Mood

If you have ever lived in an area with long, dark winters, you may have had someone suggest taking Vitamin D pills. Vitamin D is a nutrient we can get in spades from the sun. When we bask in the sunlight, it doesn’t only help to decrease our cortisol levels. It also gives your body access to more Vitamin D.

There have been plenty of studies done that show that exposure to natural light can improve your mood. In addition, natural light gives you the chance to breathe in the fresh air and experience greater amounts of exercise that help boost your dopamine levels.

Relief for Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

Along with improving your mood, a day out in the sun can also boost your self-esteem. Although this isn’t always a root issue for those experiencing anxiety and depression, it can frequently be quite helpful. Doctors have even been prescribing time spent in the outdoors for those that suffer from a variety of psychosomatic illnesses.

Another way that nature helps to rid you of some symptoms of anxiety or depression, and even tension headaches and indigestion, is the ability of nature to reduce negative emotions. This is because the body manufactures quite a few hormones in more significant numbers when you interact with the outdoors.

Bump Up Energy Levels

An increase in your energy level is another excellent benefit that nature can have on you. Many studies suggest that even the presence of nature helps your brain ward off fatigue. Other studies show that 90% of people report feeling increased energy levels when they participate in outdoor activities.

Nature doesn’t only boost our energy levels. It can make us feel more alive. Our vitality increases the more time we spend in nature. Sunlight, fresh air, wind and the sounds of the outdoors all combine to more effectively bring us into the present moment than any desk under a fluorescent light ever will.

Interestingly, exercising outdoors can have a dramatic effect on our energy levels. You might think that exercising will make you feel more tired. Instead, it helps to lower your blood pressure and gives you the opportunity to clear your mind.

A hiking trip up a mountain, a kayaking trip or a run along country roads all give you the same outdoor exercising high. The release of dopamine and endorphins can carry you for the rest of the day and sometimes even longer.

Stimulate Creative Processes

Do you feel stuck in a rut or have issues staying in tune with your creative side? You can increase your creative processes by spending time outside. Nature inspires creative thinking. The reasons for this have quite a bit to do with the aforementioned benefits of nature.

For example, stress is often a creativity blocker. Increased cortisol levels make most people feel anxious and closed off, precisely the opposite of what you want when you need a healthy creative flow. Clearing the clutter from your brain and giving it some time to relax also helps bump up the potential levels of creativity.

Find Your Focus

Time in nature gives us the chance to focus. Clearing your mind helps pull out what you need to think about instead of worrying about all the extras life can throw at us. Some experts and doctors even prescribe time outdoors to reduce symptoms of ADHD. Both structured and unstructured time in nature can help.

Allow for Restfulness

Many of us overestimate our brains, expecting they will always be there for us whenever we need to use them. However, your brain needs breaks to recuperate and adjust to new information and situations. If you have been feeling mentally exhausted, allow your mind to normalize with time spent in nature. 

Getting time in nature doesn’t only allow you to feel more rested during and after the experience. It can also be a great help for people to improve their quality of sleep. Typically, if you struggle with insomnia, you will benefit quite a bit from a walk outside.

Exercising outdoors isn’t the only thing that helps with sleep. Humans are wired to commune outdoors in some ways. For example, a night outside or a day spent in more sunlight can help to reset your circadian rhythm. It is this that plays a significant role in determining your ability to fall asleep and your ensuing REM cycles.

Whether or not you have enough time to get outdoors during the week, taking a trip on the weekend has the power to help you reset. You can return feeling refreshed and ready for the rest of the week with lower cortisol levels and increased energy and happiness.

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