4 Mental Health Benefits Of Spending Time In Nature

If there’s one thing that lock down has pushed me to do more of, it’s spending time in nature. What started off as being one of the only reasons I could go outside of our flat each day, has now turned into one of my favourite forms of self care. It’s become obvious too, that my previous office-based lifestyle wasn’t allowing me to get any where near enough of it.

Spending time in nature has become one of my daily self care rituals, simply because it has such a positive affect on my mental health. Being outside has become so important for me, because it’s 30 minutes of escapism. I can briefly get away from what’s buzzing around in my head that day, and momentarily stop worrying about what’s going on in the wider World.

I’ve been surprised just how much getting outside has improved my mental health. It’s definitely been something that I’ve leant on heavily through some big periods of change that we’re all feeling at the moment. (hello Covid and Covid-related redundancy) So why is getting outside so important? If you don’t already, here’s 4 reasons why you should think about getting out in nature more often:

It Lifts Our Mood

Woman outside in the forest with a smile on her face
Image from Unsplash

Several studies have linked walking in nature to improved mental health.

I remember in the months before the break up, when I was feeling anxious and ridden with guilt as to whether I should end my marriage or not, I used to go on a walk almost daily. It’s been the same with my coping with other big changes in my life recently; mentally trying to get through Corona, and remain positive when faced with redundancy.

My walk of choice then, and now, is along a foot path close to a harbour that’s a few minutes away from my flat. The sound of the water always has a massive calming affect on me, and lifts the mental fog that going through such a lot of uncertainty brings. It’s the tonic I need to get some perspective.

It Boosts Our Energy

Woman outside balancing on a fence with the wind in her hair
Image from Unsplash

It’s been said that a 20 minute walk can have the same energetic impact on our brains as a cup of coffee.

I definitely believe this one. Before Covid was a part of our lives, I had got into the habit of going for a 5 minute walk with one of my work mates every lunch time. My office didn’t have any windows, so it was great to get out and actually see daylight. It also meant we wouldn’t hit the dreaded afternoon ‘wall’ until past 4pm, which was much longer than we could last without having a walk.

Now, as a freelancer, I’ve made getting outside a non-negotiable part of my lunchtime routine. I always find that I get back to my desk feeling a bit more perky and with fresh ideas for the projects I’m working on that day.

It Encourages Us To Be Present

Woman sat on a rock looking out at forest and mountains
Image from Unsplash

Getting outside in nature gives your brain a much needed break from the overstimulation it has to deal with from our busy lifestyles. There’s always an email to look at, or a social media notification screaming for our attention.

Side note: if you’ve watched the Social Dilemma on Netflix, you’ll know just what this is doing to us as individuals, and as a society.

Leaving your phone at home, or firmly in your pocket, means there’s nothing dragging your attention away from the present moment and what’s around you. This is the number one reason why I think getting outside is so good for our mental health. Being present with what’s happening around you, even if it’s just for a few minutes, is a game changer.

When I went out for a walk earlier today, I was fascinated by just watching the clouds move and the changing light. It was beautiful. Taking a moment to really breathe in the intricacies that mother nature provides us with is the rest that our brain needs.

It Enhances Our Creativity

Woman sat outside on a log in the forest
Image from Unsplash

For similar reasons to the ones I’ve already mentioned, getting outside gets our creative juices flowing.

I always find that I come up with some of my best ideas after I’ve been for a walk. That’s because it feels like when I’m in nature, my thoughts are given space to breathe.

If I leave my phone at home, there’s nothing else demanding my attention, so solutions and project ideas seem to pop up out of the blue. A lot of my ideas for blog posts have come about from being outside.

I’ve also come home from walks in nature equipped with a strong realisation as to what the next best step will be in helping me navigate out of a period of change.

Final Thoughts

Girl stood outside looking at a view of trees
Image from Unsplash

Now obviously not everyone has access to the woods or a beach on their doorstep. I’m lucky enough that I’m close to water, because, as I’ve already mentioned, I really do find the sound of waves calming. However, even getting out to your nearest green space, or a tree-lined street could help.

My advice to make sure you get the sustained benefits of spending time in nature, is to find a way to realistically factor it into your day so that it can gradually become a habit.

For me, this looks like a 30 minute walk as part of my lunch break. For you, it might be grabbing 15 minutes outside before your day begins, or using time in nature as a marker for the end of your work day.

What’s the biggest benefit that you’ve felt from spending time in nature?

Featured image from Unsplash

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