How Spending Time Outside is Good for Your Mental Health
The seasons are changing, the weather is warming, and the sun is out longer and shining brighter, it is the perfect time to spend more time outdoors. Research shows that time in nature and being active outdoors is not only good for your lungs and your heart but also your mental health.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a great time to highlight some of the many benefits of getting outside and being active. At CW Psychological Services in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania we recognize the impact of fresh air and sunshine on our clients every day. That is why we are also using this space to share some of our favorite nearby places to go for an outdoor adventure. We hope you find as much joy outdoors as we do.
Why should you spend more time outdoors?
1.) We Are Wired to Connect With Nature
It is part of who we are. Harvard researchers refer to this as biophilia, our innate human instinct to connect with nature. We are wired as human beings to spend time outside. It is where we find calm and peace, and it is why, research shows, we recover better from stress in natural settings. Being outside helps us feel better, making it easier to let stressful things roll on.
You might want to try spending some time outside at Valley Forge National Historical Park in King of Prussia. Here you can go for a bike ride or a hike on its close to 30 miles of trails, learn about the history of the Continental Army, and watch for some of the 315 species of animals.
2.) Regular Exposure to Green Space Boosts Mood
Research shows that frequent exposure to green space boosts mood, helping you to feel better overall. Spending time in nature, researchers suggest, triggers a physiological response that lowers stress levels. It can be as simple as reading the newspaper in your backyard or walking your dog each day. Ideally, the calmer and more serene the area, the more mood-lifting benefits. Try to choose areas that are away from traffic and large crowds.
3.) Time Outdoors Improves Cognition
Exposure to nature can help the brain to work better. The American Psychological Association reports that time in nature can improve attention, lower stress, and result in upticks in empathy and cooperation. Time in nature has also been shown to improve memory and cognitive flexibility. Think of it as a boost for your tired brain. Next time you are feeling run down or overwhelmed by all the things you need to do indoors, step outside and take a few breaths. Chances are you will notice an improvement.
4.) The Outdoors is a Great Place to Be Active
This isn’t the first time we have pointed out the benefits of physical activity on mental health. It is great for releasing tension, stress, and mental fatigue. Physical activity provides a natural energy boost, a sense of achievement (yes, you did it!), improves focus and motivation, helps your appetite for healthy foods, and it can be fun. Being physically active outdoors gives you double the boost. Not only do you get the benefits of being active but you also get all the benefits of fresh air, sunshine, and green space.
You can be active at one of Valley to Summit’s many locations around the area including ones in Bucks, Berks, Lancaster, and Chester Counties. You can challenge your footing at rock climbing or rappelling, kayak down the Schuylkill River, or hit up some of the many hiking trails.
5.) Fresh Air Boosts Serotonin
You have likely heard of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that makes you feel happier. When you are outside, fresh air can help raise oxygen levels in your brain, which increases serotonin levels. Regularly breathing fresh air can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Get your daily dose of fresh air by spending the afternoon at McKaig Nature Center in Wayne, Pennsylvania. Here you can connect with nature on 93 acres of park land. You can have a picnic, take your dog for a walk, and learn about plants and animals.
6.) Being Outdoors Improves Sleep
Being outside helps to set your natural sleep schedule. Your body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm is regulated by sunlight. The more properly regulated your clock is, the deeper, more restful sleep you will have.
Time outside is a great addition to anyone’s routine. Vitamin D, fresh air, movement, and green space can all help lessen anxiety and depression symptoms and improve mental well-being. Even though outside time is helpful, it is not a cure-all. If you or someone you care for is struggling with mental health, encourage them to seek the help of mental health professional. They can be a guide to a healthier life and provide the necessary tools to work through mental health struggles.
Ready to begin counseling in Pennsylvania?
Counselors and associate-level clinicians at CW Psychological Services are professionally trained. We have openings for online or telehealth therapy appointments. Email us at [email protected] or call (610) 308-7575. We are here for you.