If you’re looking for some form of natural healing to achieve or maintain a positive mental state, what better place to start than outside in nature? Summer is in full swing and getting that healthy amount of fresh air and vitamin D should be as easy as ever.
In all honestly, though, it can be hard to leave the comfort of air conditioning to get outdoors without a good reason. Thankfully, there are so many activities that will have you excited to get out of bed and in the sun. Outdoor activities have a knack for elevating your mood, even in small amounts of time, and it’s been confirmed by experts that spending time outdoors, and especially participating in outdoor activities, can lead to a variety of positive mental health outcomes.
Not only are you getting the exercise, working on your tan, and making fun memories -- Your emotional well-being will get a boost as well. Studies continue to find benefits associated with nature-based recreation and mental health; Improvements including effect, cognition, restoration, and well-being, and decrease in anxiety and depression symptoms.
Now that you’re convinced, we can help you with those weekend plans! While it really doesn’t matter what activity you’re doing as long as it’s outside - We came up with an awesome list of 5 activities that will elevate your mood this summer.
While a nice stroll around the block can give you a mood boost, hiking is proven to do even more for your mental health. A hike surrounded by greenery will do wonders for your brain; The color green in itself is known for it’s healing, stress-relieving effects. There has even been evidence of green space associated with a lower risk of developing psychiatric disorders.
As Gregory A. Miller, PhD points out, “Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that." Remember, back years ago before houses we lived outdoors. The chemicals in our brains haven’t forgotten that. Plus, hiking helps your physical health as well. It’s proven to lower the risk of heart disease, improve balance, and build strength.
Bonus: No wifi helps to unplug.
"Green, which is Nature's color, is restful, soothing, cheerful, and health-giving." - Paul Brunton
The simple act of being in a park will boost your mood. No, really! Research shows that even 20 minutes in a park (without exercise) will improve life satisfaction.
Think about it, sitting in the park is a relaxing activity and with relaxation comes a better mood. Some doctors are even writing prescriptions for it! Dr. Robert Zarr, a pediatrician, told TIME he writes prescriptions to go to the park because it will improve health.
Add in a walk and you double up the benefit. A study found a nature walk produced lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region active in depression.
So, hit the park! You can’t go wrong with some snacks, a nice view and beautiful sunshine.
Remember how good greenery is for you? Along with the benefits of being in green space, gardening continues to show a positive impact on mood. Nurturing a garden gives a sense of purpose and responsibility, both proven to correlate with better mental health.
Research has also concluded the benefit of group gardening in mental health units and prison settings. Group gardening was shown to improve social interaction and creates hope which positively impacts those with mental illness.
Additionally, gardening is therapeutic and a way to work on perfectionist tendencies, or a negative mindset.
You might be able to guess the great impact cycling has on physical health. From increased muscle strength to improved coordination and balance (and more). But the mental health impact is just as impressive, and you can attain it as a serious hard-core cyclist or a casual rider.
Take it from Graeme Obree, a former cycling record holder who suffered from depression, “Getting out and riding will help, without cycling, I don’t know where I would be.” Additionally, riding your bike outdoors has been shown to help in cognitive function and emotional health and can also help fight against diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Schizophrenia.
Get your bike ride in as a leisurely activity, or your mode of transportation to work to do your part for the environment!
As you may see across social media, yoga can be practiced at varying skill sets. If you’re a beginner, don’t let the flexibility of a 10-year yogi discourage you from this practice! There is a good reason yoga is commonly recommended to patients for better mental and physical health; And by practicing outdoors, you are taking that benefit to a new level.
First of all, yoga is a practice that includes mindfulness, meditation, and grounding. These three things are great options for bettering mental health.
Experts recommend yoga to manage symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental illness. Yoga enthusiasts recommend trying yoga outside to replenish energy, heighten awareness, build confidence, and boost the benefit of meditation.
Yogi’s recommend these poses for depression and anxiety:
Downward facing dog
Seated forward bend to plow pose
Wide-angle forward bend
Upward facing bow pose
These 5 activities are proven to elevate mood in even clinically depressed patients. Take advantage of the summer weather and get outside! Do it for the Vitamin D, the healing, the exercise, the stress relief. Do it for a better mood!