Supporting Mental Health; It’s in Our Nature
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Let’s say you’re stressed. You need a vacation, a getaway. Somewhere to unwind. Where do you usually go? What do you picture yourself doing? Are you on a beach, in the sun, listening to the waves crash on the shore? Or, maybe you are in the mountains, listening to a crackling fire and crickets at night.
Being outside has numerous benefits for our mental health. Nowadays humans spend a large majority of our time indoors. We travel by car, attend school inside a classroom, and many people work inside an office. We often spend our free-time indoors as well. Of course we do! It’s comfortable, where our things are, where we watch our favorite shows! However, making time to be outside can greatly help us with mental health and relaxation.
According to the American Psychological Association, research on the benefits of being exposed to nature has been linked to:
- Improved mood
- Lower stress
- Increased empathy
- Improved attention span
- Improved working memory
- Reduced risk of psychiatric disorders
I have a 45 minute commute to a job that is in an office. I make time for nature by taking short breaks throughout the day to step outside or sit in our office garden. I also try to spend 30 minutes of my lunch break walking on the trails in the woods by our office. I am fortunate to have access to beauty close to where I work. If you are not in a location that has green space, take time to find a sunny spot on a nice day for a few moments, or consider adding a few house plants to your office. Some research shows that indoor plants have a positive effect on human stress response. Other techniques to try this summer are going for a walk in nature and paying attention to your surroundings. What do you see? What do you hear? How does the ground feel under your feet? Taking the time to be aware of what’s around you is one way you can implement more mindfulness. As an added bonus, listening to birdsong has also been shown to boost our mental health.
Whatever may you choose, spending time in the outdoors can help foster a healthy brain, mood, and overall well being.