Being outdoors may be great for your mental health and emotional wellbeing, but why is that? And how can I reap the benefits that being in nature has to offer?
How can being in nature improve mental health?
Spending time outdoors surrounded by nature can benefit you both physically and mentally. Here are some of the wonderful benefits of spending more time in the natural world:
- improve your mood
- reduce stress and anger
- help you to relax
- be more active
- improve self-esteem and confidence
- reduce loneliness
Why does being surrounded by nature help?
There’s plenty of research to suggest that being outside in natural environments may help with mental health and emotional wellbeing. Here are just a few main reasons why we understand this to be the case.
Firstly, being outside in nature allows more opportunity for physical exercise by walking or running, for example. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. When released, endorphins create a positive feeling in the body, helping us to feel happier whilst reducing pain too.
Another reason why being in nature may improve mental health and wellbeing is because it increases the amount of natural light we get. Studies have shown that the more sunlight we are exposed to, the more serotonin (happiness and mood regulation hormone) we produce. Increased sunlight can also help us to sleep better (Boubekri et al., 2014) which is really beneficial for mental health and wellbeing.
Lastly, the sounds of nature are also useful in improving mental health and wellbeing as it reduces anxiety and stress, improves mood, and allows us to relax. Nature sounds from biological sources like bird song or geophysical sources such as a river flowing or wind howling are example of nature sounds that may be beneficial for your mental health.
How can I make the most of nature?
So we know that being outside in nature is good for our mental health and wellbeing, but how do you make the most of it. Here’s some suggestions:
- Plant fruit or veg in your garden
- Learn more about foraging and practise what you’ve learnt
- Use your phone to get you out with apps like Pokemon Go or Geocaching
- Grab your phone or camera and take pictures in nature
- If you can’t get out, listen to natural sounds like ocean waves or rainfall
- Take a walk or go on a run
- Exercise outdoors with your mates by playing football, rounders, and tennis, for example
- Read, paint, or do other creative things outdoors
- Head out for a picnic or dine alfresco
- Visit your local beach (Barry Island)
- Explore a local trail (Taff trail is a great local one by the river)
- Volunteer for a conservation project
- Litter pick with Keep Cardiff Tidy
- Go bird watching
- Plant some wildflowers
- Hire a next bike
- Take your dog out for a walk
There are loads of ways to make the most of nature. You can switch it up how you interact with the natural world as often as you like so you won’t get bored and then keep your favourites for when you’re feeling low.
For more information on mental health including a list of services, visit TheSprout’s Mental Health Info page.