As the summer starts to pick up, consider one of the easiest ways to boost your mental health: Spend more time outside. It seems almost too simple to be true, but studies have shown significant mental health benefits from spending time outdoors. Here are just a few of the benefits, along with some ideas for getting out in nature for a few minutes every day.
Reduces Stress and Mental Fatigue
We could all do with tuning out of the barrage of mental noise every once in a while. Being outside encourages you to do exactly that. While science hasn’t pinpointed exactly what it is about grass, trees, and open air that help us to relax, it’s an established fact that they do. Just twenty minutes in your garden reduces the high cortisol levels that lead to stress. So next time you’re feeling under pressure, see if you can sneak out the back door for a few minutes and allow your brain to reset.
Fights Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are two of the most prevalent mental health conditions in the United States, but spending time in the natural world can lessen symptoms in those who suffer from both. Even if you don’t struggle in this way, dedicating some time each day to outdoor activities actually reduces your chances of becoming clinically depressed or anxious. It’s well worth it to invest a couple of hours a week at the park to help mitigate or prevent the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Whether it’s linked to a mental health condition or not, we all experience blue moods and listlessness on occasion. The natural light you’re exposed to when outside has been proven to have a positive effect on your overall mood and sense of self-worth. In a recent study, people who spent just two hours a week outdoors were twenty percent more likely to report that they felt happy and satisfied with life than people who didn’t spend time outside.
Two hours a week (around twenty minutes a day) seems to be the sweet spot for reaping the mental health benefits of time outdoors. Ready to get started? Here are just a few ideas for working that twenty minutes a day into your summer:
- Take your exercise routine off the treadmill and onto the sidewalk. Walking, running, cycling, swimming, and yoga are all great workouts that are conducive to being transplanted into the great outdoors.
- Have a picnic. We all have to eat, so pack a basket and head to the park. If that won’t work, just bringing your sandwich to the backyard instead of the table counts too.
- Start a garden. It doesn’t have to be big. Try a couple of hanging baskets, or a tomato plant and some cilantro for homemade salsa.
- Sign up for summer reading. That twenty minutes will fly by when you’re hanging out in your hammock with a good book.
- At work? Take advantage of your lunch hour or breaks to step outside the office and soak up some sunshine.