It’s no secret that we spend too much time indoors: we are either at work, mostly looking at the computer screen, or we are at home continuing with the more of the same – we watch TV, play video games, or engage in other activities that often time include staying indoors. As a direct result of this, we spend the majority of our time and lives missing out on beautiful things that are all around us.
But this actually isn’t the worst thing that happens to us because of this fact that we don’t spend a lot of time out in the open. Missing out on some breath-taking scenery is one thing, but there’s a lot more at stake here: our mental health gets seriously jeopardized when we are inactive and don’t go outside as much. Anxiety, stress, depression, burnout and other mental issues and conditions all start to creep in when we don’t spend sufficient time outdoors. That’s why, in this article, we’re going to talk about the connection between mental health and practicing outdoor activities regularly. As a matter of fact, you’ll not only boost your mental health, improve memory, get more creative, but you’ll also see other benefits such as lower blood pressure, decreased risk of cancer, better heart-rate, boosted immunity, etc.
Take a Walk Through the Forest and You’ll See Improvements In Your Short-Term Memory
We’re going to try to scientifically back-up some of the things that we mention in this article. This means that the connection between mental health and staying outdoors and performing different kinds of activities is something that you should definitely try. And it doesn’t matter if you’re currently feeling blue or mentally under the weather. There’s no better way to fight these conditions or ailments from (further) developing than staying active alfresco.
The first benefit we’re going to talk about is improved short-term memory. A lot of people don’t realize that the main reason why they feel lethargic or unable to concentrate is due to the fact that they don’t do many outdoor activities throughout the day. There are several studies that back up this claim and show the correlation between walking in nature and improved short-term memory. So, the next time you feel like you’re not able to focus properly on the tasks at hand, try going out for a walk. Just make sure you’re doing this in a forest or other ’green’ environment, and stay away from urban areas.
Fight Depression By Doing Outdoor Activities For Longer Periods of Time
People who struggle with depression know just how debilitating this condition can be at times. Some days, they’re unable to perform even the regular activities such as getting out of bed or eating. If you’re suffering from these symptoms in any form, it’s crucial that you become and stay active during the day. It may be hard at first, but persistence is key here: start slowly and be patient. Some days are going to be better or worse than others, but you have to try to do whatever you can to fight this state of mind.
If you feel like you need professional help, we strongly advise you to seek it. But staying active and spending more time outside can only help you further to go through these rough patches and periods. And as with short-term memory, interacting with nature improves not only cognition but affect for individuals with depression. This study from 2013 shows just how beneficial can be walking in nature, even for individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD).
Alleviate Stress By Cycling Through Nature
It should be pretty clear by now that even just spending time in nature, without being particularly active can help mitigate some mental conditions. But when you put a more serious activity into the equation, the effects multiply. There’s just something in our hormonal/ physiological state that starts to change as soon as we go outside. The positive impact that spending time outside has on our mental and physical state is tremendous.
One of the most beneficial activities that we can perform while we’re outside is cycling through nature. There’s no argument about how effective cycling can be for our physical health, but practicing this activity regularly helps with the number of different mental issues, as well. As time goes by, you become so addicted to this activity that you just can’t stop. The good news is that you shouldn’t. And when that happens, it’s paramount to have good cycling equipment like cycling shoes, gloves, jersey, shorts, helmet, and other protective gear. All this cycling apparel is not only going to make your rides through nature more enjoyable, but you’ll also feel a lot safer knowing that you’re fully protected from potential accidents. You’ll be able to relax even more when you know that you’re out of harm’s way with this equipment.
Eliminate Anxiety By Enjoying Outdoor Activities As Much As You Can
Another mental condition that’s been bothering a vast majority of people is anxiety. Stressful working environment, deadlines, irregular sleeping and/ or eating habits all contribute to this state of mind.
When cortisol levels in our bodies increase, and the blood pressure goes up, we tend to feel anxious. This triggers the so-called ’fight or flight’ response in situations that aren’t really threatening. A great way to deal with this issue is by enjoying outdoor activities as much as you can. It’s a simple solution that works effectively for many mental health-related problems. So, the next time you start to panic or you get overwhelmed by these emotions, make sure you go outside in nature. This doesn’t have to happen immediately if there’s simply no way you can do this right away. The first thing you want to do is let these emotions go – don’t try to suppress them, by any means. And when you start feeling a little bit better, just try to include some form of outside activity in your daily schedule.
Spending Time Outside Will Also Improve Your Ability to Focus
We’ve already talked about just how effective spending time outside can be for improving your short-term memory: you’ll be able to remember more things and get more efficient at work or while studying, as a consequence. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, especially after everything you’ve read in this article thus far.
If spending time in nature has a positive effect on our bodies and psyche, leading to feelings of relaxation and recreation, it’s no wonder that we’re also able to focus much better. There’s a study from 1991 that tried to show just this. Researches studied three groups. The first group took a walk in nature, the second group took a walk through some urban environment, and the third group stayed indoors. All three groups performed a proofreading task when the first two groups came back. You shouldn’t have to guess twice which group performed the best – it’s the group that went outside and took a walk in nature.
On top of this, it’s also been proven that kids with ADHD concentrate a lot better after spending just 20 minutes in the park.
Get More Creative By Being More Immersed In Nature
The last thing that we want to talk about in this article, that concerns the connection between outdoor activities and improved mental health is the fact that being immersed in nature is a huge creativity booster.
People who spend too much time indoors tend to develop a so-called ’tunnel vision’. This means that they’re unable to see things from a different perspective, which is a prerequisite for creating something new and original. Nature can help you think outside the box, and solve some of the more complex problems that are potentially bothering you. So, the next time you don’t know how to disentangle from something that’s stopping you to think straight, we strongly encourage you to go for a walk, swim, jog, or bike ride through nature. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to solve complex mathematical problems, or you’re suffering from the writer’s block – being more immersed in nature definitely helps in all these situations.
Bonus Health Benefits: Boosted Immune System, Decreased Risk of Cancer, Lower Risk of Early Death, etc.
To sum everything up, we’d also like to mention some of the bonus health benefits of staying active in nature for an extended period of time. It’s not just that your mental health can see improvements in this regard, but other physical conditions have also been reported to be remedied by spending time outdoors regularly.
Spending time outside can help you lower your blood pressure, protect your vision, protect you from cancer, boost your immune system, lower risk of early death, among many other things. There are numerous case studies and scientific research that prove these claims. It’s impossible to show all of these to you at the moment, but you can take our word for it. And if you’re still not fully convinced that being active while you’re in nature can be so beneficial for you, we strongly encourage you to stop reading this article further and instantly get outside.