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Why Outdoor Time Has A Huge Impact On Your Mental Health

As we get older, daily stress may increase for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’re taking care of a loved one. Or, you’re experiencing a life change like the loss of someone close to you, or a change in employment. Maybe you’re battling your own health complication. Or maybe you’re just experiencing the everyday stressors of life.  Whatever the case, it’s no secret that Americans are stressed out these days. But there is strong evidence to suggest that one of the best ways to beat stress may be right outside your front door.

Spending time outdoors, especially in green spaces, has shown to have a positive impact on stress. A 2019 study found that cortisol levels (as measured through saliva) decreased significantly after spending time in nature.

Another study found that just 10 minutes in a natural setting helped college students feel happier and lessened the effects of both their physical and mental stress.

There Are lots of ways that being outdoors can increase your mental health:

  • Reduces stress.

    Being outside calms our mind, leading to a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure

  • Provides you with a new perspective.

    Changing your environment, even for a short time, can help you see things differently. If you’re going through a tough time, there’s nothing better than to take a few minutes and remove yourself from the situation. And being in nature helps us focus more outwardly, on the world around us than putting our own problems in perspective.

  • Improves your mood, while reducing your anxiety.

    Studies have shown that just 20 minutes in a nature setting can improve your mood and reduce anxiety.

  • Improves Your Sleep

    Melatonin, the hormone that’s produced to help us sleep, is usually triggered by darkness. That’s why you may feel sleepy in a dark room, even during the day. But sunlight suppresses melatonin, helping you to stay fresh and awake during the day, thereby making it easier to go to sleep at night.

  • Improves Physical Health And Makes You More Active

    Getting outside for a walk or run is obviously going to reap some physical health benefits. But did you know that being in nature actually makes a workout feel easier than if you do it indoors?

How To Get Outside More Often

Think you don’t have time to get outside? You don’t need to schedule hour-long walks to reap the benefits of some outdoor time. (Although those are great too!).  Even short stints of outside time – during breaks at work, taking the dog for a quick walk around the block – are helpful. Here are some great ways to sneak in a bit more outdoors time.

  • Change Your Commute

    Are you close enough to walk or ride your bike to work? Not only is this a great way to make your commute green, but it helps you automatically schedule your outdoor time in each day. Do you live too far from work to make this a reality? Try parking further away, even several blocks, to get in a little outdoor time on either end of your workday.

  • It’s all about scheduling.

    Find a way to regularly work some outdoor time into each day.  Start your morning with a stroll, or take a walk when you get home from work. Find a peaceful spot to walk during lunch, or just sit and meditate on a park bench. Make outdoor time a part of your daily routine.

  • Take what you can get.

    You may be wondering how you can get all the feel-good vibes of nature if you’re a city dweller. While studies have shown that being in a green nature setting has a more positive effect than an urban setting, any outdoor time is good. You can also get creative in finding ways to appreciate nature. Just because you don’t live near a forest doesn’t mean you can’t find a city park or garden. Look around and see what’s available in your city, then start exploring!

  • Take Your Meals Outdoors!

    Eat your breakfast on the back porch or balcony. Have a picnic lunch or dinner. Or find a restaurant with an outdoor dining area.

  • Get a puppy.

    Dogs are a great excuse to sneak in some outdoor time! Take your dog for a quick 5-10 minute walk a few times a day.

  • Take Your Work Outside.

    Do you have a standing conference call you could take on the go? Or meetings that could be done outside? Think about ways you can move some of your daily work outside. Your coworkers will likely thank you too!

  • Plant Some Flowers.

    Gardening is a great way to spend some time outdoors and connect with nature, and can reap lots of other great rewards too (like beautiful landscaping or some delicious homegrown vegetables!)

  • Plan A Walk Or Outdoor Workout With Friends.

    An outdoor walk is always easier if you have a friend along for the ride. Not only do they hold you accountable, but you’ll also get the social benefits of spending time in the company of someone you enjoy

Have some other ways you’re able to work in outdoor time? Share them with us in the comments below!

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