You likely have heard that spending time outside improves your mental health. Maybe you’ve come across comments of the “why” as about stress release from the fresh air and exercise. The time away from a stressful routine also helps.
But we can break down the reasons further. The outdoors let us break up stressful activities, experience restorative attention, get Vitamin D, and witness peaceful scenery. It also grants us opportunities to release physical tension and build relationships.
Here are six reasons why spending time outdoors can improve your mental health.
1. The Outdoors Reduce Stress
It’s a broad and common claim, but quality time outdoors reduces stress.
So much of our stress comes from long hours indoors and locked in a routine. Even if you go outside often, at least you aren’t physically pent up and are getting a change of scenery.
Many studies have analyzed how people respond to greenery and fresh air. They call it attentional restoration theory. Proximity to nature lowers our perception of stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety.
There are several layers to reducing stress. It’s not a one-time deal. Much like taking care of other aspects of our mental health, our choices compound over time.
Spending time outdoors often also has less stress hammering at depression and anxiety. On top of that, stress can cause these conditions in the first place. So by managing stress, we may reduce our risk of developing these conditions.
2. The Outdoors Restores
Some of the studies refer to the outdoors as restorative environments. What defines a restorative environment is a sense of being away and escaping. They give you a proper break from whatever might be weighing on you in your life.
Even that break can make you feel calmer, enjoy challenges more, and work at your best.
Restoration also refers to connection. Sometimes when we’re stressed, we feel like we’re in a cage. We get removed from the rest of the world. But the relaxation you experience outside lets you soak in the world. You open up and take things more as they are.
3. The Sun Changes Your Body Chemistry
We should call light our most valuable nutrient alongside oxygen. We need it, but we don’t get enough of it.
What happens when we spend entire winters indoors? Some of us get Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What do we get from the sun? Vitamin D is a nutrient and a hormone we need but can’t produce ourselves. It interacts with other vitamins and helps with absorption. Vitamin D is a keystone to our health, and we lack it because we don’t get outside in full sun enough.
Vitamin helps with our bones, skin, and moods. Some research suggests it supports your heart.
To get it, all we need is sun-on-skin contact.
You don’t need so much that you burn, but daily doses of sunlight can be like taking your daily vitamins or exercise. A little more goes a long way.
4. The Outdoors Help with Concentration
Releasing stress in general, not just outside, tends to improve your focus afterward. Go for a walk, and come back to work. There’s a chance that the problem you were stuck on before will be easier to solve now.
Urban environments and work duties tend to need you to overcome constant stimulation. You have to filter to focus. Filtering exhausts and stresses you mentally.
But nature captures your focus. You are supposed to pay attention to it when you’re outside. That is the case whether you are out there for fun or survival. You feel good either for pure pleasure or for a sense of conquering a challenge.
When you are outside, immerse yourself in the experience. Don’t isolate yourself. Immersion in our environment is less demanding and natural for us. Thus, we mentally heal.
Even if we need some time to deprogram from modern life, we allow ourselves to immerse in the moment.
5. Bring the Outdoors Indoors For Your Mental Health
You can experience this by looking at photos as well.
Nature in art and real-life calms people. Even the art of farms, cabins, and other human developments surrounded by nature has a similar effect.
Say you don’t have the time to go hiking one day. Plants, nature artwork, or nature sounds audio tracks might help you get through a stressful day.
Chronic stress influences our mental health, so alleviating that may help depression or anxiety.
What matters is immersion. When you bring inside your favorite outdoor symbols, those become a part of your environment and experience.
6. Physical Health Helps Mental Health
Fitness choices give us the chance to release tension in our muscles. Emotional and physical stress places that tension in our muscles. The outdoors let you get all the above benefits while giving you endless exercise options.
Different outdoor activities can build your muscles, bone health, heart, and sense of balance. Spending this kind of energy also gives you spirit and endurance in the long term.
Looking for a mat-free yoga sequence for outdoor movement? Get a free printable here.
You can also create memories and build relationships by exercising outside. Go for a hike with a friend or local hiking group. Rent a canoe. Take skiing lessons. Everything outside can be a solo or group experience for varying skills and fitness levels.
These six reasons why spending time outdoors can improve your mental health stand alone and together. Any one of them is one step in a healthy direction, especially if you go outside to a green area regularly.
Yet you won’t have one without most of the others. Any sunshine helps with vitamin D production. Taking time away from stressful activities will help you ground and calm yourself. Any time dedicated to managing your stress will help with other aspects of your mental health.
Spend some time outside, and the outdoors will take care of you.