When was the last time you stargazed for the fun of it? (Checking your horoscope does not count as studying the stars). You’ve probably heard by now that getting outside is good for your physical health but did you know it’s a game-changer for mental health, too? Time spent outdoors has been proven to lead to lowered stress levels, decreased anxiety, and improved mental health. Here are just a few of the many reasons why getting outdoors is a self-care must!
Physical health leads to mental health
The health benefits that result from being outside are far greater than just a bump in Vitamin D. A study published by the University of East Anglia reported that “Populations with higher green space exposure are more likely to report good overall health according to global data involving more than 290 million people.” This is just a small bit of the endless scientific evidence that supports the positive health benefits of spending time outdoors.
One intensive study of 280 participants in Japan found that along with decreasing stress hormone concentrations by more than 15%, a walk in the forest lowered participants' average pulse by almost 4% and blood pressure by just over 2%. These improvements to one’s physical health are more than just numbers on a patient chart. Time spent in nature can also improve everyday mood and disposition since the healthier you are, the better you feel!
Science says so
Science doesn’t stop there when it comes to the study of the positive effects of enjoying the outdoors. Lower levels of cortisol, that pesky hormone that is used as a marker for stress, has been found in those who spend more time in nature rather than in a city. Additionally, proximity to green space has been associated with lower levels of stress and reduced symptomology for depression and anxiety. All this science is to say that getting outdoors can change your hormones and the chemical levels in your brain to make you feel better. The more time you spend outside, the happier you will feel on the inside!
Self-care is for everybody
Self-care is defined as the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one's own health. The Internet is full of self-care practices. Instagram says you should become a zen monk for a week, while Pinterest is chocked full of bullet journals that rival the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. All of these practices emphasize a prioritization of time spent separated from the seemingly endless demands of life to focus on peaceful, therapeutic activities.
Sleeping in your car under the trees hits all of the key self-care marks! The tranquility of nature (and the frequent lack of cell service) makes it the perfect self-care oasis for introspection and rejuvenation. Unlike some other self-care practices, your time spent outdoors doesn’t have to be complicated. There’s no need to take a walk on the wild side or traverse the rolling hills of Iceland. An easy overnight trip at a local campsite or even a simple stroll through nature will do for a peaceful practice.
Oh cell no!
Time spent deep in the outdoors is best when done without the distraction of a screen. Escape the shackles of the comment section and free yourself from the compulsive demand of likes, follows, and notifications by turning your phone off (within safe reason) when you venture outside. You’ve got the power to liberate yourself from your phone. You won’t need any in-app entertainment when you’ve got nature’s playground in front of you. Hopping off the grid and onto a camping air mattress is a great excuse to fully clock out of work on the weekend. Out of service, out of mind.
The majesty of nature makes it easy to realize what matters. For instance, the giant pile of laundry that you once thought to be insurmountable becomes merely a dirty sock or two in comparison to majestic mountains. But time spent outdoors does more than put household chores in perspective. It also offers a better view of oneself, as traveling through nature encourages us to use our time to take inventory of our mental well-being. Something we often too busy to do in our day to day lives.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the breakneck pace of life or work and forget what truly matters in the grand scheme of things. Spending time in nature is the perfect refresh button to realign your mental headspace so you can hit the ground running when Monday rolls around.
Nature’s medicine is the best treatment to boost mental health. So what are you waiting for? The mountains are calling!