The Effects of Going Outside On Mental Health
Updated: May 22
Written by Caroline Greaser
Being a human is hard, especially when the world’s winding down from a massive pandemic and everything’s been turned upside down. When staying indoors became the new requirement, it was so easy to forget the outside world existed. Even so, it’s still a good idea to get out of your house into the sunshine, and science has proven so.
Getting a mental break from work or a stressful situation like managing your life during a pandemic and going outside is important. It allows you to take a breath, relax, and reset with a better frame of mind,” says Dr. Christine Ashour, Family Medicine and Primary Care, White Plains Hospital Physician Associates. In her article about the effects of going outside on mental health, Dr. Ashour suggests walking in a park or in the woods and that if you can’t do those things, then your own backyard works just fine.
Benefits of Going Outside
So why should you do it? What are the scientifically proven benefits? First off, Vitamin D is essential, and it comes for free, right from the sun. Exposure to sunlight helps with bone growth, developing and regulating your immune system, and even helps to battle depression. For free, no extra money needed.
A change of space or surroundings is good for you too. Sitting in one spot for days on end, or roaming endlessly around your house is bound to lead to lower moods and increased levels of stress. Hopping outside and looking around fixes this problem easily, and if you can, working outside will increase your productivity rate. In several experiments, children taking tests in natural light consistently scored higher than children testing in artificial light.
All that natural light does other things for you too. According to Sunlight Inside, natural light also“boosts mood, alertness, concentration and energy levels.” Light also helps with natural circadian rhythms and sleep schedules, so if going to bed at a regular hour is difficult for you, sunlight is your friend.
If light isn’t enough to persuade everyone to hop outside, guess what else mother nature provides for free? Air. Fresh air dramatically improves the overall health of your lungs, even going as far as to improve blood pressure too. Even cold fresh air still works, so going outside and taking just a few deep breaths is worth it.
Mother nature is all around us, even for those living in suburbs or busy cities. She works timelessly and effortlessly, all for free. It costs you practically nothing to run outside for a few quick seconds, and breathe in deep. Feel the sun on your face or the rain on your skin. Take a breath or feel the wind dance through your hair and over your skin. Then, close your eyes and listen. Listen to the birds that sing or the crickets that chirp or the frogs that hide from view. Walk around in the day, walk around at night, and take a moment to get outside.
Even if the amount of work you have is staggering, it’s worth it to take those few seconds. A five-minute walk and you’ll be twice as productive when you get back. You’ll work faster, more creatively, and at a better quality too.
So go outside. It’s free and it’s useful, so what else is stopping you? Go enjoy the moment, run your fingers through the dirt. Exist where you were meant to be, and take a moment to return to your roots.
You’ll thank yourself for it. I promise.
How To Get Started
Take a walk! Walking is both exercise and a perfect way to destress. Listen to some music too, if you want, and build yourself the perfect soundtrack. I’ve been trying to walk every day, and my mood is definitely better afterwards.
Do your work on a porch, a patio, or even in your yard! Got a long essay to write? How about math studying to do? Hop outside and multitask, getting in that vitamin D and your work at the same time!
Draw with some chalk! It might seem a bit childish, but creating things is also an excellent strategy to improve your mental health. If you’ve got some cheap chalk on hand, make squiggles or pictures or whatever you want! The sidewalk is yours… at least until it rains.
Take a walk in the rain! Speaking of rain, if you don’t mind getting a little wet, you should totally go walk in it too. The world is transformed during a summer rain shower and it’s worth a quick walk just to see it. Or, if you don’t like getting wet, or it’s thunderstorming, feel free to sit on a screened-in porch instead! The sound of rain is a natural white noise, and some people even meditate to it. Go with the flow, and try out what works for you.
Take a hike! Similar to a walk, but hiking might help if you prefer having a destination. A quick google will provide you with lots of hikes to choose from, from waterfalls to overlooks, so pick a location you like and go with some friends. Socialize (distanced of course) and get outside! A win-win!
Picnic! You definitely don’t need to have a special picnic spot or recipe to have fun with this one. Grab some snacks and eat outside. Or, if you have younger siblings, make it a game for them too. Even if you don’t, what else were you going to do while eating? Sit on your phone? That works outside too!
Take some pictures! Even if you don’t consider yourself an excellent photographer, taking pictures of things can still be fun and stress-relieving. Go for a quick walk, and try to notice things you didn’t before. Maybe that weed actually has a pretty flower, or you’ve never been out at sunset before. Beauty is everywhere, and it’s waiting for you to notice it.
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