There are mental health benefits from spending time outdoors.
Have you ever noticed the sense of calm you feel after spending time in nature? Growing up in Whitbourne Newfoundland I wore the bottoms out of my rubber boots from walking in the woods tailing rabbit slips. I spent countless hours walking in the woods. The school day would end and my rubber boots would be waiting for me as I rounded the corner of my mother’s house in Whitbourne to the smell of whatever was cooking for supper.
Most days I miss those long silent walks in the woods with my dog Happy, the health benefits it provided, listening to the birds sing songs, and the crisp wind making my cheeks red.
It’s no secret that a walk in the woods can be great for boosting your mood. Anyone who has lived in a major city for at least a couple of years understands that the hustle and bustle of big city life can take its toll on both the mental as well as physical well-being of a person. Therefore, my suggestion is to get outside in nature.
In addition to physical health benefits, the outdoor activities from my childhood were vital for maintaining my mental health. I have recently revived my walks in the woods. Being in green spaces (such as gardens, parks, or forests) can significantly reduce cortisol (a stress hormone), and raise endorphin levels and dopamine production.
Additionally, the vitamin D you get from natural light can help regulate your sleep cycle. Sleeping away from artificial light and waking up with natural sunlight can also reset your circadian rhythm, which will result in better-quality sleeps and likely leave you feeling more alert and capable the following day.
That’s why one of the best things you can do right now is to get outside and take advantage of summer at its peak in the Lakeland Region. Whether it’s tending to a community garden, taking a walk through your local park, or having a picnic outdoors, contact with nature can
rejuvenate your body and mind.
What does it take to reap the benefits? While some people can’t get enough time outdoors, many of us may spend most of our
time inside, even in the summer months. I’m sometimes guilty of this as I am a workaholic. Your schedule, lifestyle, and access to green spaces can all play a role, but research has shown that spending at least two hours a week outdoors will allow you to reap the maximum mental health benefits. Plant a little happiness, if you’re looking to sustain a connection to nature while indoors, consider adding a few
plants to your space. Plants can lower blood pressure, increase attentiveness, raise productivity at work, lower anxiety, and improve overall well-being. They also improve air quality.
While you’re outdoors, make sure you share kindness to boost your happiness. I always try to do something nice for a stranger every day, even if it’s only a smile or holding a door.
Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Qualities I obtained from my mother. Every day we hear stories about people trying to make the world a better place. Together, we can make the world a little bit kinder for all of us. Just one act of kindness a day can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
It can also release feel-good hormones in your body, so you and the person you helped:
• Feel calmer, healthier, and happier
• More loving and loved
• More energy, with fewer aches and pains
Kindness helps you and others by:
• Enhancing positivity
• Changing your perspective
• Creating a sense of community
• Helping us feel connected to others
• Reducing stress.
Simple ways to spread kindness:
• Help a friend or neighbor
• Ask someone how they are feeling
• Offer support and encouragement to others
• Say good morning and smile
• Make someone laugh
Be generous with compliments:
• Leave a kind note for someone special.
Kindness is contagious. Pass it on.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with a mental health problem, help is available. Call the Addiction and Mental Health helpline at 1-877-303-2642 or go to www.ahs.ca/helpintoughtimes.