In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
Feeling stressed at work? Annoyed with your kids? You just can’t seem to shake that antsy feeling? The cure could be a few steps outside your front door.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of their time enclosed in buildings or vehicles, leaving only 7% of your entire life outdoors. 93% is a pretty high percentage! We don’t consider ourselves average and we hope you don’t either! There is so much more to the world than concrete buildings and air conditioned cars. Just think about the fresh air, green grass, beautiful trees, soft sandy beaches and let’s not forget the warm sun. (The list could go on and on.) How lucky are we to enjoy these amazing parts of nature! Not only is experiencing nature just plain awesome, it provides legitimate benefits to your mental health and well-being!
Let’s learn how a quick stroll around the block or a full day outdoor adventure could benefit you.
Forests – and other natural, outdoor settings – can improve your mood, reduce anger and aggressiveness and increase overall happiness. Many studies have shown that after stressful or mentally-demanding situations, people recover much faster when placed in a natural settings. According to Dr. Eeva Karjalainen of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, “blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rate, and the overall level of stress hormones” have been shown to decrease in nature.
Taking a walk outside can boost your creativity and reduce “attention fatigue.” According to Stanford University Researchers, walking outside “produced the most novel and highest quality analogies” during a study analyzing the benefits of walking on creative thinking. Studies have also shown that outdoor activities reduce attention deficit symptoms in children.
Gardening can ease symptoms of depression. Why is gardening so good for our mental health? The answer lies in the dirt! Actually getting your hands dirty while gardening increases your serotonin levels because contact with the soil and a specific bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of the “happy” chemical into our brain. Then, there’s what’s known as the ‘harvest high’ that you feel once it’s time to reap the benefits of your labor and share it with others.
More time outdoors gives you more Vitamin D. Your body needs Vitamin D to absorb calcium, promote bone growth and develop resistance against certain diseases. Vitamin D is sometimes called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because it’s produced by your skin in response to sunlight. Vitamin D provides a nice boost to your brain function and generally improves your overall well-being! Be wary, low vitamin D levels has been linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, osteoporosis and cancer.
Exposure to the sun in small increments isn’t harmful for most. It’s the long unprotected daily exposure to the sun that can begin to cause problems. If you are going to be outdoors for more than 15 minutes (especially on a high UV Index day) you should follow your sun protection routine. Wear a hat, sunglasses, UPF 50+ clothing and a broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen that is best for your skin.