The Great Outdoors as a Great Escape: Nature and Mental Health

By Sarah Kiminski – September 29, 2021

Living as we do – amongst the concrete, asphalt and heavy traffic – rarely do we think about the things we’re missing out on. We don’t often pause to think about the consequences of our modern lives and the distance we established between ourselves and nature. Sure, we might wander to a park or spend a weekend by a body of water and feel amazing afterward. But we still don’t make a point of making this a daily habit. 

We were born into nature and have evolved surrounded by it. Yet, we’ve forced ourselves to live quite separately from it, surrounded by our modern technological comforts. Can we wonder at the high rate of stress and anxiety we as a society live with every day?

Let’s explore the connection between nature and mental health and how you can embrace it in your daily life.

Reduced Stress Levels 

Stress is a part of our daily lives. Stressors, good and bad, assail us at every step and we often don’t even pause to think about or acknowledge them. Only when they start to pile up and impact our quality of life do we start to take notice. 

Spending as little as 30 minutes outside can significantly reduce stress levels. However, outside does not mean out on the crowded street, but rather surrounded by greenery. 

Sitting outside in your garden, by a lake or river, or grabbing a park bench can help you live a more pleasant life. You do, however, have to spend that time enjoying the scenery and not on your phone.  

Improved Mood 

Nature is also filled with elements we can never replicate. Sunlight and fresh air are both incredibly beneficial for our physical and mental health, and there is only one way to access them.

Sunlight can improve your mood, and it also boosts your self-esteem. Just consider how you feel on a bright and sunny day when the temperatures are pleasant and you’re sitting outside. Studies have shown that sunshine raises our serotonin levels, which accounts for improved mood. On the other hand, dreary days can have the opposite effect. 

Combating Anxiety and Depression 

Both depression and anxiety are common mental health issues faced by modern humans. While a lot of work is required to combat them, studies have found that spending time in a green environment improves mood and self-esteem. And that, in turn, can also help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Nature’s calming and distracting effect can soothe the anxious and troubling thoughts that our mind is preoccupied with, helping us center ourselves. Sometimes, all it takes is breaking the cycle of negative thoughts to lessen the grip of anxiety — and nature can do that effortlessly.

Helps You Stay Active 

When we spend time outdoors, we’re most often doing something active. Activities like walking, hiking, going for a run, gardening, swimming, kayaking, rafting, playing a sport, and so on. The point is — we’re engaged in some kind of physical activity.

Given the fact that a simple daily walk can significantly impact our overall health and wellbeing, spending more time outdoors can be the incentive we need to get moving. 

Working out indoors is also beneficial, of course. But when we’re outside, there’s the added benefit of the air and the sunlight. It’s a completely different experience and often a more enjoyable one. 

Promotes Mindfulness 

Spending time outdoors is also a great way to become more mindful and aware of the present. Everything we’ve said so far about the relaxing and soothing capabilities of nature goes to show that it has the power to relax and center us like no concrete jungle can. It’s a powerful combination of sunlight, the color green, the sounds and scents that surround us. After all, that is still our most natural habitat.

You’ve probably experienced these effects yourself. When you go on a city break, your holiday is more about sightseeing, action, and the hustle and bustle of your destination. When you spend your holiday in nature, whether it’s on a beach or on a mountain, you’re able to breathe more deeply and relax more profoundly.

Final Thoughts 

The connection between our mental health and nature is innate, undeniable, and, sadly, often forgotten. While many of us don’t have easy access to what we can call “true nature,” at least we have a slice of parkland that we can enjoy during the week. 

Try to make a point of sitting and taking a walk in nature every day, even if it’s just 20 minutes. That’s all it takes to recharge your batteries a bit, preparing you for the return to the busy lives modern humans lead.

 

About the Author

Sarah is a life enjoyer, positivity seeker, and curiosity enthusiast. She is passionate about an eco-friendly lifestyle and adores her cats. She is an avid reader who loves to travel when time allows.

 
 

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