Are you struggling with symptoms such as anxiousness, feeling easily overwhelmed, depressed mood, lack of interest in doing things, irritability, or difficulty concentrating? What about body stiffness, joint pain, headaches, difficulty sleeping, or feeling fatigued? Do you spend a lot of time each day indoors, whether that’s sitting in your office, working indoors on a laptop or phone, or caring for children inside your home? What if I told you that being inside can actually make anxiety and depression symptoms worse?
Studies have shown time and time again that nature is healing in many ways. Being outdoors, feeling the sun and warmth on your skin, breathing fresh air, looking at beautiful landscapes, and hearing birds chirping are relaxing and can reduce feelings of stress. Enjoyable body movements in nature, like taking a walk around the neighborhood, going on a hike, swimming, working in your yard or garden, and playing catch with your dog actually increase the benefits of being outside and can reduce feelings of anxiety. Nature is therapeutic and relaxing, much like meditating. Meditate in nature and you’ve increased those positive benefits even more so.
But how much time do you actually spend outdoors? Is that enough time for your mental health? Take a minute and reflect on those two questions and answer them for yourself. If you are working inside all day or sitting in a classroom, you are likely spending less than one hour per day outside. And if the weather is not ideal, even less. A lack of time outside and in nature can have drastically negative effects on our mental health and wellness, increase symptoms of depression and anxiety, and create feelings of isolation and loneliness.
To reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, cope with stress, and improve your mood, consider spending more time outside to connect with nature and move your body. Here are a few ways to increase time spent outdoors:
- Take a walk after meals/at lunchtime/after dinner
- Intentionally watch the sunrise and sunset
- Invite friends to meet somewhere outdoors/hold social gatherings outside
- Choose to sit outside when going out to eat
- Move your yoga/meditation/journaling time outdoors
- Take your dog on walks
- Explore nature trails/hiking areas on the weekends/time off
- Play outside with your children instead of inside
- Learn a new hobby/skill that requires you to be outdoors
- Join an organized sport/hiking group/walking club
- Take your children to the playground
- Walk around in a city instead of driving
Any time of year is a good time to get outside and soak up all the benefits it offers. I encourage you to make time to get outside today, breathe fresh air, feel the sun or wind on your face, and move your body. Your mental health and physical wellness will thank you for it.
Needing more help figuring out how to incorporate nature into your life or busy routine? We are here to help. Reach out today for a free telephone consultation with a licensed counselor to learn more about how we can help you feel less anxious and/or depressed.