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Get Outside! How Spending Time Outdoors Improves Our Health

When spring finally springs the overall impact it has on our communities is hard to deny. There is a visible increase in positive moods and happiness when the weather changes from drab to fab! Everywhere you look it seems the neighborhood kids are out to play, the flowers are in full bloom, the sun is shining and people seem lighter. So if you've felt a little more pep in your step during springtime, you may be experiencing the positive effects of being outside and enjoying nature. Research has shown that spending time outdoors improves mental health and decreases stress. Even just 50 minutes of being outside in nature has been shown to decrease anxiety, increase positive feelings, and improve working memory (More here). Spending time outdoors improves our health overall and has been linked to numerous mental health benefits. Read more below.

two people outside in a great field enjoying nature in the spring
Step outside and improve your mental health! Discover how spending time outdoors can reduce stress, boost mood, and enhance overall well-being.

Here are a few ways in which being outdoors improves our health and mental well-being:

  • Reduced Stress Levels: Nature has a calming effect on the nervous system, leading to decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Being in green spaces or natural environments can promote relaxation and alleviate stress.

  • Improved Mood: Outdoor activities, especially physical exercise, release endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters. Exposure to natural sunlight also contributes to the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with improved mood.

  • Enhanced Concentration and Focus: Time spent in nature has been linked to improved concentration and focus. Exposure to natural settings may help reduce mental fatigue, increase attention capacity, and enhance cognitive function.

  • Better Sleep Quality: Regular exposure to natural light and physical activity outdoors can positively impact circadian rhythms, helping regulate sleep-wake cycles. Improved sleep quality contributes to better mental health and overall well-being.

  • Increased Creativity: Being in natural environments has been associated with heightened creativity. Spending time outdoors can encourage divergent thinking, problem-solving, and a fresh perspective on challenges.

  • Social Connection: Outdoor activities often provide opportunities for social interaction and connection. Engaging in group activities or spending time in communal outdoor spaces can foster a sense of belonging and reduce feelings of isolation.

  • Mindfulness and Presence: Being outdoors encourages mindfulness, the practice of being present and fully engaged in the current moment. Nature provides a conducive environment for mindful reflection and relaxation.

  • Reduced Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression: Spending time in nature has been associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression. Combining physical activity, exposure to natural elements, and a sense of tranquility in outdoor settings can positively impact mental health.

Incorporating outdoor activities into daily routines, such as walking, hiking, gardening, or simply spending time in a nearby park, can contribute to maintaining good mental health and enhancing overall well-being. If you feel like you can't fit this into your schedule, try thinking outside the box: eat one of your meals outside, play with your kids, or take a quick walk around the block during your lunch break. For even more ideas, check out this article.

*Note: If you feel like you have significant depressive symptoms during the winter, you may have experienced what is clinically referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you feel like this is something you have struggled with, please talk to your doctor or a licensed therapist.

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