5 Ways to #BeWell in the Great Outdoors
The sun is out, and the natural world is calling! Maybe you don’t need extra reasons to get yourself outdoors and to enjoy the summertime weather, but we want to give you a few reasons anyway. Let’s talk about mental health and about the benefits from time spent outdoors in green spaces.
Did you know: studies have shown numerous links between time spent in nature and improvements to mental health? For one example, natural light has been shown to elevate mood, and Vitamin D (that’s the one that comes from sunlight) is known to alleviate symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Other studies have shown that time spent strolling in the forest reduces the levels of cortisol in the body (what we often call the stress hormone), and can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression both. Other studies still have shown that busy, hustling-bustling urban environments, with their overload of stimuli, can cause cognitive fatigue, but that time spent in the natural world can restore us from that cognitive fatigue, boosting creative thinking and concentration.
Even while modern technology gives us so many compelling reasons to spend more time indoors, we humans aren’t meant to live exclusively beneath a roof in the artificial light; the natural world outside our window beckons! Read on for some of our thoughts on how you can maximize benefits to your mental health and well-being by spending time engaged in the great outdoors, even if the great outdoors, in this case, may just be a park down the street.
1. Get outside for your social health
People are social creatures. A networks of caring, supportive relationships, is a key protector of strong mental health and well-being. Getting outdoors is a perfect chance to bring us together with company we enjoy; how about a group trip to the local swimming hole, or a potluck in the park, or maybe something quieter, like an afternoon spent reading on the lawn with an old friend? Without school to keep you in regular contact with peers, it’s easy to feel disconnected from friends in the summer months. Making social plans around outdoor activities is a great way to keep you and your friends engaged until school starts back up.
2. Get outside for your physical health
Although, as a society, we have often discussed mental health as if it’s separate from physical health, your health is your health! Good physical health is crucial for good mental health, and spending time outdoors gives you a chance to work on both at once. A jog or stroll in the park, a hike in the timbered hills, a bike ride along a river path—these are all great ways to promote your physical health, and in doing so, promote your mental health too. Plus, just by being outdoors, you get to soak in the so-call “restorative powers” of nature. Studies have shown that time spent walking in natural, green spaces reduces our tendency to brood—helps us to escape that old, broken-record feeling of worrying about things we can’t change. Outdoor activity is a chance to get out of the house, and a chance to get out of your head!
3. Meditate in the wild
There is no better place to meditate than outdoors, maybe near a gentle creek or a sun-filled glade. When your mind begins to wander back to your busy life, let the sounds and sensations of the natural world draw you back to that centered, mindful place. Soak in the sun and a healthy dose of Vitamin D while you’re at it. Signing up for a yoga group in the park is another perfect way to get mindful outside, and to fit in some exercise at the same time.
4. Eating Au Naturel
It’s hard to feel much healthier, much more refreshed, than when eating a fresh and green homemade meal out on a sunlit afternoon. Just like any other organ of the body, our brain needs proper nourishment; in a growing body of evidence, the link between diet and strong mental wellness is continuing to become clearer. But there are other ways you might maximize the mental health benefits that come from a healthy diet and time spent outdoors. Gardening, for instance, has been shown to reduce stress. A quiet morning spent fly fishing is another common activity sportsmen take up to find calm and peace of mind.
5. Get outside and get creative
Studies have shown that time spent outdoors can boost creative thinking. Studies have also shown that creativity poses a myriad of benefits to mental health and well-being, such as relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression, boosting mood, and guarding against cognitive decline later down the road. What better way then to maximize all these benefits than by picking up a new creative pursuit in the great outdoors? This time of year you may see people bringing their easels and canvases to the paint at the park, or their sketchpads to the trail, chalk artists working on the sidewalk, or woodworkers building in the yard. These summer days are the perfect time to figure out which kind of artist you are.
In short, there is no shortage of ways to focus on mental health and wellness in the great outdoors. Exactly how you go about it is all up to you. And however you do, we want to hear about it! How does being outside help you #BeWell? Join the mental health and wellness conversation online using the hashtags #BeWell, #BeHeard, and #BeThere, and share your mental health story at wellbeingtrust.com.