“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.”- John Muir
What is your favorite season? Is it Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter maybe? Do you find joy in feeling the warm sunshine and the pleasant aromas of flowers in the garden, hearing the faint sounds of bees buzzing and birds chirping? Or is it more enjoyable for you to see the rustic colors of green leaves fading into dark orange and yellow and falling to the ground? Taking evening strolls hearing the crunch of leaves beneath your feet? For some, changing of the seasons can result in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), causing depression or leading to other unpleasant moods or feelings. However, being outdoors and engaging in meaningful time in nature can greatly improve one’s mental health, as well as offering many other benefits.
What makes spending time outdoors beneficial to one’s mental health? Studies have shown that exposure to green spaces fosters an improved attention span, decreases stress, and leads to an overall improvement in one’s mood. Activities such as taking walks, going hiking, and exploring the outdoors in general on a regular basis, can lead to motivation to spend more time being physically active outdoors. Being more physically active also has a positive impact on one's level of stress hormones, decreasing their production in the body. Being in nature can be healing, providing a relaxing and calm environment, which contributes to reduced blood pressure and heart rate as well as less muscle tension. Also, nature can be soothing and restorative by providing an environment that is beautiful and interesting. All of these components of nature contribute to our lives and can improve an individual’s overall sense of well-being. Researchers report that those who spend more time outdoors and in green spaces have a decrease in symptoms of depression and anxiety, and an overall positive mood. Studies show that even having the opportunity to view beautiful greenery or other nature scenes in photographs have a similar effect as being out in nature itself. Another great aspect about the great outdoors and being in nature to support one’s mental health, is that it is accessible to everyone regardless of their physical or mental abilities!
Looking for ways to increase your outdoor time? You can spend some time working outside if you work from home, take a walk during a lunch break or after work, and plan trips to your local park. You can even add some low maintenance greenery to your indoor living or workspace to bring the outdoors inside. A little bit of fresh air and time outdoors each day can help improve your mood and outlook.