7 Ways the Outdoors Improves Your Mental Health

Apr 5, 2022

Aktivurlaub im Frühling bei einer Wanderung im Wald

Mental health is a hot topic right now, and for a good reason. People dealing with mental health issues often feel pains in every area of their life, with their physical, mental and social health influencing overall well-being.  

Luckily, there are some simple and free things you can do to improve your mental health. 

According to recent studies, being outdoors positively affects mental health. From reducing stress to improving moods, nature provides many benefits for mental well-being. 

You’ve likely experienced the healing effects of spending time outdoors. Understanding how nature impacts the body can help you embrace outdoor activities and see the value for yourself.  

Keep reading to learn seven ways the outdoors can improve your mood and mental well-being: 

1. Being in nature decreases stress levels  

Our culture’s fast-paced style and technology dependency create extra stress in our lives. We feel the need to be doing something or getting things done all the time, which keeps us from relaxing.   

Nature often provides a sense of calm and peace and is an escape from the noise and distractions of urban life. In fact, according to a 2019 study by Frontiers in Psychology, being in nature can decrease stress levels by up to 20%.  

Being in nature helps slow down time, slow down thoughts and embrace the present moment. Nature helps ground us in the here and now and creates an opportunity to remind ourselves of what truly matters.  

2. Being in nature reduces overthinking  

Overthinking is a type of hyper-active brain activity creating negative thoughts that can lead to depression and anxiety. It’s when you focus on your problems and dwell on negativity, making problems seem bigger than they are. 

Spending time in nature reminds us that our problems are temporary and that things are often not as bad as they seem. In addition, this sense of peace and grounding decreases emotions of anger and hostility. It makes people happier!  

3. Nature exposure increases self-esteem  

Believe it or not, the sights, smells and sounds of nature can help improve self-esteem. Nature provides a sense of wonder. This boosts self-esteem. It reminds you that you have control and what you choose to focus yourself on matters.  

When in nature, we feel calmer and more at peace. As a result, we can view ourselves through a more forgiving and compassionate lens. 

4. Nature contact boosts mood and reduces anxiety  

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues globally, and exposure to nature is shown to be an effective treatment. For example, a University of Essex study showed that just five minutes of exposure to nature lowered participants’ anxiety levels.  

Being in nature creates serotonin and dopamine. These hormones activate positive emotions and increase your happiness and sense of peace and belonging.  

5. Outdoor activities boost cognitive function  

Spending time outdoors has also been shown to boost cognitive function. For example, one study found that children who played outside scored better on memory, attention and creativity tests than children who played indoors. 

This may be because being outdoors requires you to use all of your senses, fully exercising the brain. In addition, being in nature provides a mental break from the stresses of daily life, which allows your brain to rest and rejuvenate. 

6. Connecting with nature leads to greater life satisfaction  

Humans are meant to be in the outdoors. When we spend time in nature, our bodies reward us, and our minds thank us. Spending time outside naturally encourages physical activity, which improves physical health, and we know it stimulates the hormones that create happiness. It gives us the space to clear our minds and find peace.  

Being outdoors allows us to be present in the moment and feel like we’re making the most of our time and our lives.  

The quality of our lives and our general satisfaction increases when we spend time in nature.  

7. Interacting with plants and animals has therapeutic effects   

Interacting with plants and animals can have therapeutic effects on mental health, like reducing stress levels and improving moods.  

For example, one study found that spending time with animals reduces stress, anxiety and depression. Additionally, because spending time with animals usually results in some type of physical activity, it has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. 

A survey conducted at four San Francisco Bay area hospitals found that 79 percent of patients said they felt more relaxed and calm,19 percent felt more positive and 25 percent felt refreshed and stronger after spending time in a garden. 

Find Resources to Help Support Your Mental Health.   

Taking care of your mental health is essential for improving all other aspects of your life. Spending time in nature is one step you can take, but sometimes it’s not enough to overcome all of life’s challenges.  

At LifeWorks NW, we provide mental health, addiction, depression, prevention and holistic health solutions that feature the level of support that people need, when, and how they need it.  

We can help you come up with a solution that best fits your needs and gets you on track for better mental health.  

Start a journey towards your better life with support from LifeWorks NW; for more information about our services or to make an appointment today, click here.