“Go play outside!” The age-old admonition of mothers everywhere. Turns out, mom was right again. For the benefit of your mental health, going outdoors is a great idea, it’s actually science.
There are significant mental health benefits of being outdoors. The impacts of nature upon mental health have been studied and reported by the American Psychological Association, Harvard University, and the World Health Organization. All of these studies, and more, have found similar conclusions–time spent outdoors is good for your mental health.
Time in nature can reduce stress and anxiety
While nobody is completely sure WHY it happens, scientists are certain that being outdoors helps general mental health by reducing stress and anxiety. The American Psychological Association presents three major working theories as to why nature affects the brain the way it does, and one of the most popular theories “posits that spending time in nature triggers a physiological response that lowers stress levels.” Another popular hypothesis is that “nature replenishes one’s cognitive resources, restoring the ability to concentrate and pay attention.”
The reality, the American Psychological Association concludes, is that “Stress reduction and attention restoration are related,[...] And because of the societal problems we’re dealing with in terms of stress, both of these theories have gotten a lot of attention from researchers.”
The idea here is our bodies and brains love nature so much that the mental health benefits of going outdoors are hardwired into each of us. Some studies, like this one from Cornell University, found that “it takes as few as 10 minutes in a natural setting for college students to feel happier and lessen the effects of stress both physically and mentally.” Think about that for a second, 10 minutes outside in nature? Sign us up!
Spending time outdoors can improve your mood
Do you find yourself happier when in nature? You are definitely not alone. In fact, scientists studying the health benefits of being outdoors have found clear evidence that nature improves people’s moods.
Another study by the American Psychological Association found “evidence that contact with nature is associated with increases in happiness, subjective well-being, positive affect, positive social interactions and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as decreases in mental distress.”
The American Heart Association says:
If you’re feeling blue, try going outside to green, natural spaces. A stroll in the woods has been shown to help combat depression, and even just the view of the forest from a hospital room helps patients who are feeling down.
While none of these studies are suggesting that a jaunt into nature will replace clinical treatment, therapy, or medication for mood disorders, the data clearly shows that being outdoors is good for your mental health.
Whether it’s the serene sounds of nature or the fact that being outside often includes some form of physical exercise (another health benefit of being outdoors!) which often releases dopamine and endorphins which make you happy, or (most likely) both, getting back to nature can, as this study from Harvard suggests, greatly improve your sour mood.
Getting outdoors can help you feel more connected
Another major mental health benefit of being outdoors is the way that it helps us situate ourselves in the world around us. It can be very hard, when we spend our days at a desk, in front of a screen, in a classroom, or working a job, to imagine ourselves as a part of something bigger than ourselves. As reported by the American Psychological Association,
Alison Pritchard, PhD, ABPP, at the University of Derby in England, and colleagues found that
people who feel more connected to nature have greater eudaemonic well-being—a type of contentment that goes beyond just feeling good and includes having a meaningful purpose in life. Additionally, the APA tells us, other scientists found that “feeling connected to nature was a significant predictor of happiness.”
This makes sense, as few things are as humbling or refreshing as standing next to a giant sequoia, experiencing a sprawling vista, or scanning the oceanic horizon. Suddenly, problems that felt huge seem smaller by comparison. That connectedness with nature is good for your mental health.
With all the mental health benefits of being outdoors, we think it’s about time we all listen to Mom and go play outside. It may not cure everything ailing us, but there’s plenty of research to suggest that nature can be good for our mental health, and our physical health too.
At Tru Flask, we feel strongly that getting outdoors is important. That’s why we created the Tru Flack Adventure Club, why we work to promote natural restoration projects, and why we discuss ways that you can help your environment on our blog. After all, if nature is this good for your mental health, shouldn’t we celebrate that?
While you are enjoying the mental health benefits of being outside, don’t forget to stay hydrated. Tru Flask offers high-quality drinkware like our double wall insulated water bottles at affordable prices so you can ‘TRULY LIVE’ and explore the outdoors. We’re an organization committed to helping you enjoy your time outside.