Do you ever find yourself stuck in a rut, trying to come up with a solution to a problem that seems just out of reach or trying to break out of a bad mood that doesn’t seem to go away? Are you stressed and anxious in your day-to-day life? If so, you should consider taking a walk around your local park or nature trail.
Spending a little bit of time in nature is a great way to heal your mind, body, and soul. Not only can it improve your mood and help reduce anxiety and depression, but it can also raise your self-esteem and improve your heart health. Read on to discover some of the amazing benefits of spending a little time in nature.
Whether you’re trying to make a piece of art, write a report, or solve a challenging problem at work, you need a good amount of creativity. And we’ve all been in that place where our brains feel stuck, banging against a wall of nothing. Next time you find yourself there, go take a walk around the nearest park or nature train.
Studies have shown that spending time in nature can increase creativity and help us generate creative solutions. Part of this is because being in nature allows you to expand your complex working memory span – in other words, you can get a more in-depth view of a problem in your head at once to be able to see patterns and find solutions. Being in nature also helps decrease anxiety and pointless rumination when you’re working on these problems.
There’s a reason our image of a depressed person is someone curled under blankets in a dark room by themselves. Spending time in nature can be a great way to decrease the effects of depression. Part of that is to do with the mindfulness that comes with being present in nature.
When we go for a walk outside, we usually aren’t worrying about what happened last week or what might happen next week. Instead, we’re present in the moment, focused on the sensation of walking, the smell of the world around us, the sight of sunlight tilting through the trees and squirrels racing up and down trees, the sound of the birds singing around us. That sort of mindfulness can have huge benefits for our brains and help restore some of the chemical balance that depression can so disrupt.
Another benefit of that sort of mindfulness is that it can reduce the effects of anxiety. Anxiety is largely about getting caught up in worries about something that happened or something that might happen. It can spiral out of control as you go deeper and deeper into those ruminations.
But stopping and being mindful of where you are at the present moment can be a great way to cope with anxiety. In fact, one powerful coping mechanism to deal with anxiety attacks is to name five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can touch, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Spending time in nature can help you ground yourself in the present in the same way.
Have you ever noticed that after a walk outside, you felt calmer and less stressed out? This isn’t just some trick of the mind; there’s actual brain chemistry at work there. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can help reduce stress levels (which, incidentally, helps improve everything else on this list).
People who spend time in nature show lower levels of cortisol and adrenaline, two of the primary hormones that create a feeling of stress. This can lead to lower blood pressure, less anxiety, and an overall better mood. And given how dangerous long-term stress can be, it’s worth it to spend half an hour outside every day.
Not only can being in nature lower your stress levels, but it can also actually actively raise your mood. Some studies have shown that interacting with certain bacteria in soil can cause an increase in our serotonin levels. Serotonin, sometimes known as the happiness hormone, creates feelings of joy, comfort, and pleasure.
You may also come out of a walk in the park with better self-esteem. The combination of exercise, time outside, and the potential social component if you go on that walk with a friend can all work to raise your view of yourself.
It may sound strange, but spending time outside can do a lot to increase your perception of your own health. If this doesn’t sound that important to you, think about the last time you considered going to the gym or ordering a salad and didn’t. We’re willing to bet that your reason for watching Netflix or ordering pizza was something along the lines of, “Well I’m already unhealthy anyway, what good would it do?”
Spending even a little time outside can make you feel good about doing something healthy for yourself. That self-esteem boost can help you feel like maybe making those healthy choices isn’t so pointless, after all. And that, in turn, can make it easier to make better choices for your health every day.
Aside from helping you to make better health choices, spending time outside can increase your overall health. As we mentioned, chronic stress comes with a lot of health risks, so reducing that can go a long way towards improving your health. And outside usually coming with some small component of exercise.
Something as simple as half an hour walking in nature five days a week can do a ton to improve your cardiac health. Your pulse rate and blood pressure will be lower, and your metabolism will be more balanced.
While we aren’t saying you have to go climb a mountain every day to be healthy, spending just a little time in nature every day can do wonders for your mind, body, and soul. You’ll feel better about yourself, be less stressed, and have better overall health. So next time you have a lunch break at work, go take a walk; you’ll feel better for it.
If you’d like to learn more about how to take care of yourself, mind, body, and soul, come see us at Miramar. We can help with alcohol and drug treatment, and we offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment options. Set up a free consultation with us and start changing your life today!