Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. Whether working or watching TV, a lot of our time is sedentary and this is having a negative effect on mental health, with rates of anxiety and depression on the rise. Despite this, many of us don’t consider going outside to help ease these symptoms.
However, spending time in nature can greatly improve mental health. In fact, it has been recommended by doctors for decades as a way to manage mental health symptoms and support physical and emotional wellness. Spending time in nature for just 120 minutes can help people feel stronger and healthier, both physically and emotionally.
In this article, we will be sharing how spending time in nature can improve your mental health.
1. Nature Reduces Stress and Boosts Your Mood
Some days, from the moment you wake up, the daily stresses of life can feel overwhelming. Perhaps the kids were being difficult or you didn’t get enough sleep, whatever the cause of your stress getting outside – even for five minutes – can significantly boost your mood.
Going for a walk once a day can have a tremendous impact on your mood and how you deal with stress. You will feel refreshed, happier, and less anxious. Nature relaxes us. That’s probably why so many of us enjoy walking holidays or vacations surrounded by nature in beautiful serene settings.
2. Nature Reduces Feelings of Anxiety
We all experience feelings of anxiety throughout our lives. However, some people struggle with debilitating anxiety disorders that make daily life difficult. According to The Centers for Health and Healing, “For some people, irrational thinking and unpleasant physical symptoms can become so pronounced that they cause family, work, and social difficulties. At this stage, a person is experiencing an anxiety disorder […] It is not uncommon for people with an anxiety disorder to suffer from other mental health disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder and substance use disorder.”
While spending time in nature can’t fix the problem completely, it can help ease feelings of anxiety by encouraging people to slow down, breathe deeply, and unwind. This practice is extremely important for maintaining good mental health and wellbeing.
3. Nature Increases Enjoyment of Exercise
Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can have a significant impact on your mental health, as well as promoting a healthier lifestyle. Those who spend their time in nature tend to get more exercise as they’re often out on a walk, run, or bicycle ride.
People who exercise regularly outdoors benefit from increased emotional wellbeing and don’t tend to get stressed as easily. Just 30 minutes of outdoor exercise each day can positively boost your mental wellbeing and help ease mental health symptoms. The exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous – even a gentle walk can make a big difference. The important thing is to get outside and stay active.
4. Nature Increases Vitamin D Levels
Spending time in nature is a great way to get outside and soak up that all-important Vitamin D. Essential for your health, Vitamin D keeps your bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. It also helps your body absorb calcium and facilitates normal immune system function. People with Vitamin D deficiencies, most often due to lack of time spent outdoors and poor diet, are more likely to experience depression.
According to Dr. Angelos Halaris, Professor of Psychiatry at Loyola University School of Medicine in Chicago, “The association between vitamin D deficiency and depressive disorders is well established based on the existing research […] In my practice, what I have found is that when patients are not fully responding to antidepressants and their vitamin D blood levels are low, once we add vitamin D supplements the response to medication improves.”
Spending time in nature helps boost levels of Vitamin D naturally so that you can better manage your depression and experience an improvement in your mental health.
5. Nature Can Reduce Feelings of Isolation
Mental health can be isolating. It affects everyone so differently and as a result those who struggle with their mental health can feel alone. Spending time in nature can help reduce feelings of isolation. Not only will you feel more connected to the world around you, but getting outside is a great way to meet new people and foster relationships.
Many people who struggle with isolation say that visiting their local park, ambling around communal gardens, or joining walking groups can help connect them with the world and people around them. This helps reduce feelings of isolation and boosts mental health and wellbeing
As you can see, there are many ways spending time in nature can improve your mental health. We hope this article has encouraged you to prioritise time spent outdoors so that you can enjoy mental rejuvenation for the long term.