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Mental Benefits of Spending Time in Nature

Many of us spend the majority of our days sitting inside in front of a computer. We then go home, have dinner with our families, try and squeeze in some downtime, maybe a quick workout, call it a day, and go to bed.

During the winter months, many of us severely lack quality time connecting with nature. We convince ourselves we do not have time. We do not necessarily need it. The cold winter weather further reinforces indoor activities and comforts.

Technology has made indoor living easy. It provides hours of entertainment and offers the answers to most of our questions, so why would you go outside when the world is at your fingertips?

A lot of individuals suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, during the winter season. Even mild cases are fairly common, but what does this have to do with nature?

SAD occurs due to the change in seasons and the reduced amount of daylight. Those who suffer from SAD feel depressed, tired, and may have difficulty concentrating or sleeping.

The lack of daylight impacts your serotonin and melatonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep cycles. Melatonin levels increase in darkness which lets your body know it’s time to head to bed. During the day, melatonin levels decrease due to sun exposure, making you feel more awake.

If you are not getting outside enough, your melatonin and serotonin levels get out of whack. Your sleep cycle is thrown off by decreased sunlight. You may feel tired, sluggish, and unmotivated.

How can you avoid that winter slump?

The answer is simple: get outside. Spending time in nature can improve your mood and overall mental health. According to experts, just 15 minutes outside each day is all you need to reap the benefits the great outdoors has to offer.

However, if you are experiencing severe mood swings or depression symptoms, it is crucial to seek out professional help. Spending time in nature can complement the help of an expert, but in no way replaces professional advice or treatment.

What are the mental benefits of spending time in nature?

Many studies have noted a significant improvement in an individual’s mental health who live close to green space or nature. With constant movements and sounds, urban and industrial environments provide excessive stimulation. Cognitively, it is exhausting.

Nature provides a place to restore and reset. It offers a quiet and peaceful environment to reconnect with yourself and a place where you can allow outside stressors to fade away.

Humans are not inherently programmed to spend long durations inside. As aforementioned, sunlight is important for the regulation of our mood and our sleep.

Our body’s biological and chemical processes thrive in the outdoor environment. Mentally, it has vast impacts on our mood and overall well-being.

Time Outside Decreases Stress

Have you ever noticed when you go for a hike or spend the weekend away in the woods, you feel more relaxed? Your stress tends to melt away. You feel rejuvenated.

In a study by Environment Health Prevention Medicine, researchers explored the physiological changes in participants before and after they walked through a forest.

They further compared city groups and forest groups. The participants were instructed to walk through the city or forest. Researchers recorded the participants’ heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels before and after their walks.

Compared to the city walk participants, the forest walk participants had lower heart rates, blood pressure, and lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Decreased stress levels positively impact your mental and physical well being. Mentally, you feel happier. Physically, you lower your risk of developing dangerous health problems, such as heart disease or diabetes.

Nature Energizes Us

Getting some fresh air makes you feel more alive and more awake. Sunlight helps regulate our melatonin levels and sleep-wake cycles. If you struggle to get up in the morning, start your day outside. It may be the boost of energy you need.

With less stress and more energy, you will feel happier and more satisfied with your life, allowing you to get more out of each and every day.

Spending Time Outside Decreases Anxiety and Depression

Being in nature promotes positive feelings and decreases feelings of anger, anxiety, fear, and stress. It further encourages a good sleep cycle which is linked to better mental health.

Lack of sleep plays a major role in depression and anxiety disorders. Without the proper amount of sunlight each day, your sleep quality and quantity can take a hit. Sleep better, feel better, and get outside more!

Nature Enhances our Creativity

Spending time amongst greenery and forestry can get those creative juices flowing. It can inspire you. It allows time for you to slow down and take a break from your day-to-day.

Unlike in the city, your cognitive function and attention span is not stressed to the max. You can dive into a different side of yourself. You can explore new options and ideas.

The Great Outdoors Improves Concentration

In the American Journal of Public Health, researchers explored the benefits nature has on children with ADHD. They concluded that green and outdoor settings tended to reduce symptoms of ADHD and improve concentration.

Further, it is thought that spending time outside improves memory. It’s no wonder that teachers and schools have started taking education outside. Classrooms without walls have begun to pop- p across Canada, with teachers and parents in agreement that spending time outdoors and in nature enhances the learning experience.

How Can You Spend Time Outside?

Get active or find a hobby you can do outdoors. Start biking to work, instead of driving. Walk, run, or hike to meet your exercise quota. Take part in yoga in the park. A lot of cities offer free classes in public parks during the summer months.

Even in the winter, you can find activities to do. Dress for the weather. Go snowshoeing, skating, tobogganing, or skiing. Build a snow fort with your kids. Avoid hiding away indoors.

Start gardening. Take up fishing. Read a book in your backyard. Meditate outside. Work outside, if you can. Try planning a picnic.

Conclusion

Improve your mental health one nature walk,hike or bike at a time. Reconnect with your natural surroundings. Live for the moment and disconnect from your daily stressors. Relax and reset. Take control of your mental well-being, and get outside, today.

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

"Believing in yourself is really half the battle," says Krista. Anything is possible and you really can achieve anything you set your mind to, is her motto. Physiotherapist, Piano player, skydiver, yogi, adventure traveler and energetic force of positivity, Krista is herself a (delightful) force to be reckoned with! As... Read More

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