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Does getting outside benefit Your Mental Health?

It’s no secret that taking a walk is good for our physical health, but as it turns out, it doesn’t stop there. Let’s be honest, most of us spend too much time staring at the screens of our electronics, in fact, it’s estimated that Americans spend at least 10 hours a day staring at a screen of some sort and definitely nowhere near enough time outdoors. So, in honor of May being mental health awareness month, we are going to talk about the benefits of spending time outdoors and the impact it has on our mental health. 

 

Man wearing vibrant sunglasses in nature
There's nothing quite like the great outdoors!

 

There’s a wide variety of ways to spend your time outdoors, but even the simplest forms of getting outside have their benefits. Walking has been proven as an effective method in reducing anxiety and depression, improving attention, lowering stress, and has even been shown to help reduce the risks associated with psychiatric disorders. To take it one step further, walking in nature specifically has shown even more in the way of effective results.  

 

Why is it important to get out in nature? 

Research has found that different parts of our brain are more active in nature. Our mind calms, leading to physical changes like a reduced heart rate or even blood pressure. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to take on that intimidating hike up a mountain in order to see positive results, spending time outdoors at a park or any green space can have a very similar effect! 

 

Woman sitting in grass with blue-tinted sunglasses on

Nature has the best Calming Effect!

Helps With Depression

Ecotherapy is a type of formal treatment that involves doing activities outside in nature has shown it can help with mild to moderate forms of depression. This could be due to the combination of social contact in being out in nature and regular physical activity. This form of treatment has also proven to be effective in cases of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that affects people during certain seasons or times of the year, most commonly during late fall or early winter months.  

The Cognitive Benefits

Research over the years has found a link between spending time outdoors and positive cognitive development in people. For example, one study found that green spaces near schools actually promoted the cognitive developments found in children, and green views near kids’ homes helped promote self-control behaviors. These studies weren’t only focused on kids though, it was also found that adults who lived in public housing units in neighborhoods with more green space showed longer attention spans than those who were living in units with less natural environments.  

 

How much time should I spend outdoors to get the benefits of nature walks? 

Research has found that 120 minutes (about 2 hours) a week is the ideal minimum time you should spend outdoors to see positive results in your mental health and well-being. Researchers also mention that it doesn’t matter if this time spent outdoors is a continuous stretch of time or not because the benefits of getting outdoors or going for a walk appear to be the same even if the 2 hours spent outdoors occur in smaller blocks of time throughout the week.  

 

Woman's shoes in frame walking in a park
When will you be making the time to get outside today?

Conclusion 

In this day in age where we’re all glued to our electronics and with research supporting a link between increased screen-time and declining mental health, it’s more important than ever to push in the direction of positive changes. So, whether you plan to start spending your lunch breaks going on a walk in nature, going for that morning/evening run, joining that outdoor sports team, or anything in between, you’re doing your part in advocating for mental health awareness and you’re sure to see benefits on your own mental health. 

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