Nature’s Medicine: How Can Spending Time Outside Help My Mental Health?

Spring is a beautiful time of year, isn't it?

With this season in full bloom, many of us find ourselves spending more and more time outdoors, soaking in the sun and enjoying nature’s beauty. 

But did you know that being in nature can do wonders for our mental health as well? 

That’s right – research has shown that spending time in nature can reduce stress, anxiety and depression and increase overall feelings of wellness and happiness. 

If you’re curious about nature’s amazing benefits for our mental health, keep reading – we’re about to dive into the many ways that spending time in nature can benefit our minds, bodies, and spirits.

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The Physical Benefits of Being Outside:

Spending time in nature has numerous physical benefits that can help heal our bodies. 

Being immersed in the outdoors allows us to breathe in fresh air which can boost our immune system and promote the production of white blood cells. 

The sun provides us with much-needed vitamin D, which is crucial for the health of our bones and helps protect us against a range of diseases. 

Additionally, simply taking a walk or jog outside can improve cardiovascular health, as well as lead to weight loss and lowered blood pressure. 

How Long Should You Spend Outside To Reap The Benefits?

Many of us have heard about the benefits of spending time in nature, but how much time do we need to fully reap the mental health benefits?


According to a recent study published by the National Parks and Recreation Association, as little as 20 minutes spent in nature can significantly improve our mental well-being. 

The study found that participants who spent time outside in parks, forests, and other green spaces reported lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. 

While spending more time in nature may offer additional benefits, it’s encouraging to know that even a short walk or break outside can have a positive impact on our mental health.

5 Ways Nature Can Help Our Mental Health:

It Can Lower Our Stress Levels:

Stress is an inevitable part of life. Whether it is due to work, school, or personal relationships, it can be challenging to deal with. 

However, spending time outdoors can help lower stress levels. One major way it accomplishes this is by lowering cortisol, a hormone that is released in response to stress

Cortisol prepares the body for the “fight or flight” response, but when it is constantly released due to chronic stress, it can have negative effects on our health. Thankfully, spending time outdoors can help counteract this.

Being in nature can have a calming effect on the body, with fresh air and greenery stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and relaxation. 

It Can Help Us Get A Better Nights Sleep:

As a child, did you ever spend an entire day in the sun, only to overhear your parents say, “they’re going to sleep well tonight!” 

Well, as it turns out, there’s actually some truth to this statement.

Spending time outdoors during the day can help us get a better night’s sleep. But why is this the case? 

It all comes down to our circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. Exposure to natural sunlight, particularly in the morning, helps to reset our circadian rhythm, allowing us to feel more alert during the day and more tired at night. 

Not only this, when we’re outdoors our bodies absorb vitamin D, which is also essential for regulating our sleep-wake cycle. 

Moreover, being outside during the day helps to regulate our body’s melatonin production, ensuring that when night falls, we’re more ready for a deep, restful sleep.

It Can Give Us a Major Mood Boost:

Spending time outdoors can do wonders for our mood. 

It’s not just the change of scenery that can brighten our day, but rather the actual scientific benefits that come with breathing in fresh air. 

Being outside increases our oxygen levels, which in turn leads to the increased production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates our mood and is often referred to as the “feel-good chemical” in our brains. 

This chemical plays an important role in how we feel and our mental health. When our serotonin levels are increased, it can lead to feelings of happiness and overall well-being. 

So, when we spend time outdoors and breathe in that fresh air, we are essentially fueling our brains with the necessary ingredients for a mood boost. It’s like a well-oiled machine, with all the pieces working together in perfect harmony.

It Gets Our Bodies Moving:

In today’s busy world, it’s easy to get caught up in sedentary activities that can be detrimental to our mental health. 

Spending prolonged periods of time indoors, sitting in front of a screen, can be particularly damaging. 

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: spending more time outdoors. 

When we’re outside, we’re often walking, jogging, or playing with our kids – all great ways to get our bodies moving. 

Exercise has been shown to have a significant impact on mood and mental health, and getting it outdoors is even better. Simply changing your environment can have a big impact on your mental stability.

It Lowers Our Risk of Depression:

Spending time outdoors every day has proven to be an effective way to lower our risk of depression. 

The fresh air, natural sunlight, and connection to nature all have beneficial effects on our mental health. As we discussed previously, better sleep, lowered stress levels, exercise, and increased serotonin levels are all important factors in decreasing levels of depression. 

When combined with spending time outdoors, these factors work together to provide a powerful boost to our mental health. 

 Additionally, outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, or swimming can provide a sense of accomplishment, which can help improve overall well-being. 

People who spend time in green spaces or engage in outdoor activities, such as gardening or hiking, report a greater sense of wellbeing and lower levels of depression. 

Outdoor activities can also help us to socialize, connect with others, and reduce feelings of isolation, which can further help to alleviate depression symptoms.

Key Takeaways:

All in all, the benefits of spending time outdoors on our mental health cannot be overstated. 

Whether it’s a walk in the park, hiking in the woods, or just sitting on a bench and enjoying the sunshine, being outside can positively impact our overall well-being. 

Research has shown that even short periods of time spent in nature can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while improving mood and cognitive function. 

So, if you find yourself struggling with your own mental health, I encourage you to take action and get outside. 

Even just 20 minutes a day can make a world of difference. So, put down your phone, step away from the screen, and allow yourself to recharge and connect with nature. Your mind (and body) will thank you.

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