How much time per day, do you spend outdoors? And how much of that time is actually spend in nature?
Let’s break down the outdoors and nature.
You have sunlight (even if it is raining!), greenery (grass, trees, leaves, flowers, etc), insects, wildlife, birds and bees, beautiful scenery or just beauty in general, fresh air and perhaps some water like a lake, river or ocean.
Now that we have broken it down, what can each of these do for your mental health?
- Firstly, it gives you a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, work, people and noise.
- Sunlight is super important because you get lumens from sunlight. Sunlight produces a hormone called serotonin, which helps with anxiety and depression. At night, the serotonin is converted to melatonin at night to help you sleep better and deeper.
When you are working in an office, in those bright lights, those lights release about 100-150 lumens, however, when you go outside, even o a very cloudy day, you will still get 1000-1500 lumens.
Sunshine also produces Vitamin D, which is important for physical health, as well as combating Depression.
- Being outside, especially in green environments, can boost a variety of different cognitive functions. These includes improving your memory and attention, boosting your creativity and even preventing Depression. In the UK or other parts of the world where winters are long and it can feel grey and dull, people actually suffer from SADS (Seasonal Affective Disorder Syndrome) and can lead to depression. When the weather is cold, wet and gloomy, people tend to spend more time hiding indoors and not really going for walks in a beautiful forest for instance.
- Enjoying wildlife actually reduces stress, fatigue, depression and anxiety. It makes us appreciate life more. We experience the joy of seeing wildlife being free, stress-free, playful, working or just going about their business. Whether it is watching butterflies fluttering around, busy bees hard at work, deer grazing, rabbits hopping about or even a frog enjoying water.
Sharing your photos or experiences with others also helps you connect to others, which I turn improves your social skills and mental wellbeing.
- Beauty in nature surely relaxes you. It’s actually been proven that you can relax your mind from stress and the rat race of life even just by looking at nature scenes on your computer, but of course, getting outside and really observing nature is even better than just watching it from your desk.
- Getting plenty of fresh air actually gives you more brain power! Plus, it allows your lungs to work at full capacity and gets lots of oxygen flowing through your blood.
- Water has a natural calming effect on people. Which is why there are so many water recordings on YouTube, helping people to sleep better and deeper. This could be sounds of water flowing in a lake, rain gushing down, waves or waterfalls. Just listening to it can sweep you away to ‘wonderland’. Of course, drinking plenty of fresh water is also good for both your body and brain. Taking a few sips of water has also been proven to relax you if you are feeling anxious.
21 ways to get more involved with the outdoors.
- Say Active:
Try to be active and workout outside, at least 5 times per week for 30 minutes. If you can’t go outside, try to workout in an open window for some light and fresh air.
- Build a wildlife habitat:
It provides protection for wildlife, especially hedgehogs, and becomes a home for all sorts of bugs, insects and creatures.
- Bird feeders:
There’s such a variety of beautiful birds that visit our gardens and observing these birds is a gratifying pastime.
- Create a herb or vegetable garden:
Gardening can give us peace of mind, satisfaction, relaxation and helps us shut off from work or troublesome thoughts. Create your own little garden patch – whether it is planting beautiful flowers, or setting up a herb or vegetable garden.
- Get a water feature:
As mentioned above, water has numerous benefits to both humans and wildlife. It releases stress and has a calming effect on humans. When installing this feature, ensure it is safe for wildlife and have a place they can enter and exit from should they fall in.
- Create a compost heap:
Not only does a compost heap allow you to dispose of kitchen scraps in an environmentally friendly way, but it also provides a safe haven for bugs and insects.
- Don’t mow your lawn:
In the UK, the best time of the year to do this is the month of May, which will allow all sorts of wildflowers to bloom and attract hundreds of bees. It is such a positive-inducing routine for your mental health to just spend 5 minutes per day embracing the sights and sounds of butterflies and bees and enjoy the beauty of your garden.
- Mindful nature:
When you’re out in nature, be alert. Find things to feel, touch, see, hear, smell and taste. For example, smell the air after rain, or some wildflowers, feel the ground or grass under your feet, hear the birds and the bees, touch leaves, flowers or tree trunks, feel the sun or the wind.
- Be part of a community garden programme:
By being part of such a project, you are Giving Back – which means it will make you feel good and in turn release feel good endorphins, which is great for combating anxiety and depression.
It will also help you be connected to others and perhaps build close relationships which is important for our wellbeing. Even if you are just virtually connecting with others by sharing gardening tips, wildlife photo’s or helping others to connect with nature.
- Bring nature inside:
Perhaps you don’t have a garden, but you can always bring it into your home by buying plants of flowers, growing it on a balcony or windowsill. You can even just listen to sounds of nature, take photos of your favourite places in nature or create a type of nature sanctuary where you can relax, enjoy the outdoors, the sky or looking at trees.
- Go for nature walks:
In your local park or travel to a place of greenery where you can get away from it all now and then.
- Give yourself a step goal:
On your phone, or on a gadget such as a Fitbit, you can do a 10 000 steps a day goal. That will encourage you to get outside more. Go for short walks, get up regularly from your desk to go outside, par further away or just doing long walks outside.
- Dog walking:
I’ve personally noticed so many people got puppies during lockdown – which is great as it got people outside, but I wonder if most people will have time to do dog walking once they are all back in the office and what will happen to the dog? If you think you can sustain the dog walking, then why not get a dog? Otherwise you can also sign up to ‘Borrow-My-Doggy’ and help other people walk their dogs.
- Go Camping:
You don’t have totravel far to find a great spot! In the process, you’ll have a great time, stress-free, beauty all around you and perhaps get away from technology for a bit.
- Eat lunch in a green space:
Perhaps you can’t work outside but you can at least eat outside. Find a nearby tree, your garden or a park and enjoy lunch o maybe even have a picnic with friends. It will also enable you to be more productive when you return to work.
This is such a great way of getting out, alone or with friends. I’s a treasure hunt – for adults and kids. If you’ve not heard of it – google it and give it a go!
Visit a city farm and watch the animals or perhaps even volunteer to help out.
- Watch the sunset:
If you can’t see if from your house – go on the rooftop or walk to the end of the road or climb a hill to view it and embrace the beauty of it.
Talking about sunsets – wake up early once a week to see the sunrise!
- Join an outdoor exercise class:
There are so many outdoor classes from yoga to bootcamp. Find one local to you and get motivated, with others, to exercise outside.
- Plant a tree:
Do some research and find a good spot to plant the perfect tree, ensuring it is the right space for that tree to be planted to allow it to grow for years to come.
Besides all of the benefits mentioned above, nature has, even more, to offer a positive impact on your mental health.
Here are 35 benefits of the impact on nature on your wellbeing:
- It reduces stress, depression and anxiety
- It can improve your mood
- It keeps you young
- Increases your energy
- It can improve your memory
- It can alleviate ADHD in children
- You will feel revitalised
- Decreases anger and tension
- It can prevent and manage diabetes
- It gives you protection from having a stroke
- It gives your brain a break
- It can alleviate asthma & Respiratory problems
- It makes you grateful
- It makes it so much easier to relax
- It can actually distract your brain from pain and discomfort
- Interesting, if you live in an area surrounded by trees, you’ll have a greater sense of belonging
- It speeds up your body’s ability to heal faster
- It prompts weight loss
- It is easier to exercise outdoors
- It can boost your immune system
- We experience more happiness
- It helps you recover from mental fatigue
- It staves off the effect of dementia
- You absorb Vitamin D better
- Restores your ability to focus
- It helps you be more productive
- It can help improve emotional imbalance and behavioural development in children
- It will improve your sleep
- You are less likely to develop near-sightedness
- It enhances creativity
- It may reduce the risk of mental health disorders for children and teens
- It helps you to concentrate better
- It lessens the severity of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
- It helps us to value more important things like relationships, community, caring and sharing
- It lowers your blood pressure and reduces stress
The majority of us underestimate what nature can do to boost our mental health and wellbeing. Our mental health is more important than work, because, without it, we cannot work effectively. It is more important than relationships because when we struggle mentally, our relationships will struggle too. It is more important than anything else and we sometimes take it for granted. Thus, the most important thing you can do for yourself is to look after your mental health, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to connect with nature at every moment we can.