Many people are struggling with their mental health. The world economy, international conflicts, and other problems continue to negatively affect us. While there’s no simple solution to these problems, there are ways we can help ourselves feel better. One way is getting outside. Keep reading to learn why the great outdoors is good for your mental health.
Introduction to the Mental Health Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors
While there are many ways to improve your mental health, spending time outdoors offers unique benefits. Two of the best benefits of outdoor time are mood improvement and stress relief.
Spending time outside exposes your body to natural sunlight, which can enhance the production of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. When you have more of these endorphins in your brain, you feel happier. The serene and beautiful environment of nature can provide sensory stimulation that triggers the release of these happiness hormones as well.
While spending time outside increases our brain’s happy chemicals, it can also decrease cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone. Natural settings, as well as outdoor exercise, can enhance feelings of revitalization and decrease tension.
Outdoor Activities To Improve Mood and Relieve Stress
Outdoor exercises can help our entire body, including our brains, feel better. However, outdoor exercise is a broad category, and trying to sift through this broad category alone can feel overwhelming. Before you get overwhelmed, we have some ideas for outdoor activities that can improve your mood and relieve stress.
One of the best ways to start getting outside more is to take an indoor activity outdoors, such as yoga. You can sign up for a group yoga class or follow a video in your backyard. Doing yoga outside allows you to connect with nature and breathe in fresh air while also relieving stress and improving flexibility. Practicing yoga can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and improve your overall well-being.
For the more active and adventurous, hiking is another outdoor exercise activity that can help your mental health. Being in nature can reduce anxiety, depression, and negative feelings. Hiking specifically can promote a sense of accomplishment and boost your self-esteem.
How To Get Started With Outdoor Activities
Now that you know some great outdoor exercise activities to try, you can start incorporating them into your routine. For those who’ve never tried outdoor yoga or hiking before, we have some tips to help you make these activities part of your regular routine.
Starting Outdoor Yoga
Search for a quiet space outside where you can practice yoga or where an instructor is already holding a class. If you’re finding your own space, look for a grassy area where you feel the most connected to nature. Once you’ve found the perfect spot, schedule your practice around a time when you know there will be fewer people around. Bring your yoga mat and wear comfortable clothes that you can move freely in. If you’re not part of a class, bring a guide based on your experience level.
Starting hiking is similar to starting outdoor yoga. You’ll need to find a spot where you feel comfortable, such as a local park. Choose a trail based on your experience level and check the weather before scheduling your hike. Plan extra time for breaks if you’re a new hiker. Be sure to wear comfortable athletic or hiking shoes and breathable clothes, and bring extra supplies, like snacks and water, if you’re planning a long day out on the trail.
The Importance of Unplugging and Reconnecting With Yourself
Sometimes, you need to use your phone during these activities, such as when following a yoga video or consulting a digital trail guide. However, it will benefit your mental health to unplug and reconnect with yourself while in nature.
When you unplug from technology, you can better practice mindfulness. Mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment without judgment or distraction. By disconnecting from technology and focusing on your surroundings, you can better tune in to your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. This can be a helpful practice for improving mental health, as it can lead to greater self-awareness and insight.
When we’re constantly distracted by technology, it can be difficult to focus on tasks at hand or come up with new ideas. By taking the time to disconnect, we can give our brains a much-needed break and allow room for new thoughts and insights to emerge. You might find that after some outdoor yoga or a weekend hike, you feel more energized and ready to tackle creative projects or work tasks.
Strategies for Increasing Your Outdoor Time
Understanding why the great outdoors is good for your mental health is one thing—making time for outdoor time is another. Most of us live busy lives with work, family responsibilities, hobbies, and more. Finding time to get outside can feel impossible with these full schedules. We recommend the following strategies for increasing your outdoor time so that you can continue to reap mental health benefits.
Connecting With Others
Connecting with others makes getting outside more social and keeps you accountable for doing so. Consider inviting a neighbor over for outdoor yoga or joining a local hiking group. If you prefer to exercise alone, you can still get outside with other people. Host outdoor movie nights in your backyard or volunteer to take shelter animals to the local park.
Exploring New Places
Another way to motivate yourself to get outside more is to find new places to explore. You can explore locally or go on grander adventures further away. For example, take a self-care day to enjoy a picnic at a new spot in a local nature preserve or schedule a group trip to somewhere exciting, like Hells Canyon in Idaho. Find new ways to interact with these new spaces as well, such as doing some yoga before your picnic or scheduling a jet boat tour after your hike in Hells Canyon.
No matter where you live or what you do, getting outside offers many mental health benefits. Even if you have only a few extra minutes a day when you can get outside, doing so can help you feel better. If you want to schedule a fun trip to enjoy the great outdoors, consider the best Hells Canyon jet boat tours. You’ll enjoy a beautiful day in North America’s deepest river gorge, with breaks for swimming and plenty of picture-perfect opportunities. We may be a little biased, but we think a jet boat tour is the perfect way to boost your love for the outdoors.