There’s a reason why you love spending so much time outside, and it’s not because you were cold all winter long. Ultimately, going outside can drastically improve your mental health, helping you feel more peaceful and relaxed in a matter of moments. Spending time in the fresh air and among nature has a variety of benefits, so whether you run outside or relax on your balcony, you can spend some time taking care of yourself by simply being in the sun on a warm summer day. Here are the ways going outside can benefit your mental health.
1. Better Physical Health
Your mental and physical health are related. When you’re sick, you don’t feel happy and full of joy, and when you’re sad, you don’t feel like getting up and going for a run. By improving your physical health, you can gain confidence and improve your mental health simultaneously, and there have been many studies linking time outside to better physical health, including lower blood pressure and improved immunity.
Believe it or not, spending time in nature can be incredibly beneficial for your physical health even if you’re not performing any type of physical activity at all, but it’s better if you do. While spending time outside isn’t a cure-all for every health ailment, it can promote better physical health in just a few minutes every day, especially if you can spend some time in the sun to get vitamin D.
2. Relieves Stress
Spending time outside can help relieve stress and anxiety. Spending just a few minutes outside every day can lower stress hormones, including cortisol, and improve your mood. Spending time outside can benefit anyone of any age, but especially those who spend a lot of time inside dealing with stress, such as people who work in offices, the elderly, and even children who spend most of their time in school. There’s a reason why you never missed recess when you were younger!
3. Improves Performance
Spending time outside can give you a much-needed break from work and school that can cause you to lose focus. Indoor work can negatively impact your brain’s ability to focus, especially with so many distractions around like co-workers chatting nearby, loads of other work, and even your cell phone sitting on your desk. Ultimately, many people have trouble focusing in indoor environments, especially when there are other people around.
Spending time outside before starting tasks can have a positive impact on work performance by improving memory and helping your brain concentrate. If you can’t spend your whole day working outside, you can try to place your desk so that you can see trees and sunlight when working inside. However, try to get as much fresh air on your lunch break to help you come back feeling more energized and refreshed.
While being able to focus on a task doesn’t directly translate to less stress, it does mean being able to accomplish more, which might help prevent stress.
4. Regulates Sleep
Going outside more can help regulate sleep and help you feel more awake during the day. A lack of natural light can trigger your body’s natural melatonin production, which is the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. Your body produces melatonin more at night, which helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. However, if you spend most of your time indoors or even in the dark, your body may be producing melatonin in response to a lack of natural light, making you feel sleepy even though you got a full eight hours.
Sunlight is an essential part of your circadian rhythm, your body’s internal clock, which helps tell your mind when it’s time to start getting ready for sleep. Going outside for a few minutes every day can help your body and mind feel more awake and alert during the day, making it easier to fall asleep at night. So if you’re someone who spends all day indoors in low light, consider popping outside on your break for some fresh air and sunlight.
5. Boosts Mood
Natural light stimulates vitamin D and serotonin production. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that is known to improve immune function. However, it also plays a role in our moods. Meanwhile, serotonin is a hormone responsible for helping to regulate moods and can increase our feelings of satisfaction and happiness. Even small amounts of time spent outside can increase overall well-being to improve mental health.
Tips for Spending Time Outside for Mental Health
Now that you understand the mental health benefits of spending more time outside, you can start to find ways to get out more. Whether you only have a few minutes a day or want to aim to spend more of your leisure time in the sun, here are some tips to help you get outside more.
- Take your morning coffee outside: Many people spend a few minutes every morning simply trying to wake themselves up for a productive day with coffee. If you spend time sitting at the kitchen table before getting ready for work, try taking your coffee outside instead.
- Going on a lunchtime walk: Going on a walk on your lunch break can help you stay more energized and productive for several reasons. Not only does getting outside make you feel more alert, but exercise can also give you a much-needed afternoon boost.
- Relax outside: Instead of sitting in front of the television when you get home from work, consider taking a book or tablet outside with you. Even if you’re not physically active, you can still get all of the benefits of spending time outside.
- Take your therapy outside: Typically, therapy is done in the office of a medical professional, but with the advancement of psychological resources you can now choose whether you see your psychiatrist or psychologist in their medical office or virtually. If you’ve got the option to do online psychiatry, maybe take it outside in one of your favorite spots, whether that be at the park, by the pool, or in your backyard.
From getting better sleep and feeling more awake the next day to relieving stress after a long day of work, spending time outdoors comes with many benefits. Spending more time outdoors can make a drastic difference in your mental health. Whether you decide to meditate, work out, or simply spend time sitting in the fresh air and sunlight, getting outside can help you feel more relaxed almost instantly, and the benefits of spending time outdoors can last all day long.
Ashley Nielsen earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration Marketing at Point Loma Nazarene University. She is a contributing writer at 365businesstips.com where she shares knowledge about general business, marketing, lifestyle, or financial tips. During her free time she enjoys being outside, staying active, reading a book, or diving deep into her favorite music.