Nature and Mental Health: Let the Outdoors Help

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Nature and mental health are linked, so walking through woods like these is helpful.
March 26, 2024

Screen time. It’s something that’s part of all of our lives, but not necessarily something many of us think about regularly. Americans spend too much time in front of their screens. According to What’s the Big Data, the average American spends more than 7 hours in front of a screen every single day. That’s not healthy, and it also means we’re not enjoying the outdoors. That’s also important, as there is a direct link between nature and mental health.

We’re going to continue our look at mental health self-care with a dive into that link between nature and mental health. We’ll offer some statistics that will hopefully prompt people to put their phones and tablets down more often and go outside. We’ll also provide some ideas for what you can do to put the natural world around you to good use such that it protects your mental health.

Nature and Mental Health: A Dwindling Set of Benefits

We all live very busy lives. Unfortunately, that means that we don’t generally spend as much time outside as many of us should. According to a survey appearing in The Nature of Americans, a majority of adults spend 5 hours per week or fewer outdoors in nature. In addition, most respondents to the survey stated that they were satisfied with the amount of time they spend in nature.

The survey went on to reveal that approximately three-quarters of the respondents stated that the interests that they pursue in nature are among their most enjoyable. That indicates that while people relish their time outside, they have also found a way to accept that the amount of time they do get is sufficient.

Nature and Mental Health: How One Helps the Other

A growing body of literature is continuing to emerge that shows that spending time in nature directly benefits mental health. According to Mind.Org, spending time outside engaging in activities such as gardening or just being around animals can help people:

  • Improve their mood that day
  • Reduce anger
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve physical health
  • Boost self-esteem
  • Connect with others
  • Reduce feelings of isolation

While these are everyday benefits that certainly help anyone who experiences them, several studies have shown that spending time outside can help reduce problems that include depression and anxiety.

It should not come as a surprise that spending time in nature helps people’s mental health. What that does not solve, however, is the problem of how people are going to find a way to do this. As said, we are all very busy and most of us live in cities where nature is not just outside our doors.

Below you’ll find some ideas for finding your way into nature that may ultimately help you find that balance that we all need.

Nature and Mental Health: Some Ideas for Making It Happen

Let’s assume for a minute that most people reading this article live in an urban environment where getting into nature is easier said than done. That’s a challenge for millions of us in the United States, but it’s hardly one that cannot be overcome. Below are some ideas for providing yourself and loved ones with the exposure to nature that helps all of us.

1.    Don’t Overthink It

First, while the more time you spend in nature, the better, that doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours there every day. Research has shown that even a few minutes outside can make a big difference in someone’s day and overall health. If you live in a city, schedule 15-20 minutes per day – or even a few times per week at first – to walk through the nearest park. Parks may not be untouched areas of the world, but they are green and filled with fresh air. It can be done if you build it into your schedule.

2.    Test Your Green Thumb

Even if you live in a city, you most likely have some space somewhere to grow something. Start a garden – even a very small one, and even inside if necessary – and bring nature to you. Growing a plant or a few small crops such as tomatoes or spices can help you connect with nature and provide you with benefits that include a mental escape from the daily grind that beats everyone down over time.

3.    Find a Community

Research also reveals that you’re more likely to do something if you are doing it with others in a group. You’re less likely to avoid doing something or talk yourself out of it if others are depending on you to show up. Look online for a local walking group or some other small community that pushes you to prioritize that time outside.

4.    Walk Instead of Drive

If you’re running errands one day and what you’re doing is only a few minutes away by vehicle, plan to walk to that store or appointment instead of driving, assuming you don’t have cargo to transport. It’s the same mentality as taking the stairs instead of the elevator: You’ll burn more calories, breathe more fresh air and avoid burning expensive gasoline.

5.    Give It Time

Finally, while you will most likely feel an immediate boost in energy and mood as soon as you start spending time in nature, the long-term benefits tend to arrive when you build that time into your routine. Your body and brain will adjust to the regular intervals of fresh air and sunshine to the point where you’ll be inherently driven to give yourself that break more often than not.

How SoCal Empowered Can Help

Ultimately, nature and mental health are linked, and the more time you spend in one, the bigger the benefit you’ll enjoy with the other. Of course, if the problems you’re facing are more serious than what we’ve described, you need to get help from mental health professionals.

If you’re concerned about this, you can always contact SoCal Empowered. We’re here to listen to what’s happening and to help you find the right resource.

Contact us today to get the process of dealing with this problem started.

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