There's something uplifting and mentally refreshing about being outdoors and enjoying nature – in fact, Henry David Thoreau once said, "I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees." Now, there's also research to back that up.
According to a new study published last month in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, people who live closer to green spaces enjoy better mental health and feel better about their lives. This expands upon earlier research which showed that being outdoors encourages physical activity and social interaction, both of which can relieve stress and boost your mood.
"Being out of doors, enjoying nature and soaking up the sun's rays in a healthy way (sunscreen is a must!) is a great mental boost," says Kevin Baill, MD, a staff psychiatrist at Butler Hospital. "The key is exposure to the foliage found in nature – trees, grass and flowers. You can find those in your yard, at a park or on a hike through the woods."
The following are some results of being outdoors:
- Improved mood - due to increased Vitamin D levels; even just 10 minutes of sun exposure a day can help the body
- Improved relationships – if your mood is buoyed, doesn't it make sense that you're interacting with others better?
- Boosted brain activity - according to another study out of Scotland and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine which actually tracked brain waves in people walking in a country setting
- Reduced stress - especially if outdoor activities include exercise, yoga, etc.
- Improved sleep – think of that drowsy feeling you get after a day outside
- Improved physical health – based on an ever-stronger understanding of the mind-body relationship
There are so many ways to enjoy the great outdoors, many of which involve very little money. Try:
- Going to the zoo
- Rent a canoe or kayak and go fishing
- Take a hike; find a good trail on explorer.org (link to http://www.exploreri.org/gtraillist.php)
- Grab some binoculars and go bird-watching
- Dine on the restaurant's deck
- Pick your own fruits and veggies; locals can check http://www.pickyourown.org/RI.htm
- Grab your camera and explore
- Pitch a tent and camp (or book a cabin at a campground for something less austere)
- Join a running, walking or cycling club
- Grab the leash – either your own pooch or a friend's – and take a walk
- Go stargazing on a clear night
- Stock up on outdoor toys – think Frisbee, wiffle ball and bat, or a soccer ball
Visit Butler Hospital's A Healthy Mind facebook page for more ways on improving your mental health.