The turn of the season brings with it warmer temperatures, more sunny days, and budding plant life. With these changes comes the invitation to reconnect with nature and enjoy the many benefits it can bring to both your psychological and physical wellbeing.
Here are some ways you can enjoy the health benefits of nature:
1. Get out of your head and into the world outside of you
In our fast-paced world, it can be natural to get “caught up” in daily tasks, worries, and goals; but without a healthy shift in perspective from time to time, we can feel overwhelmed by the weight of our problems. Have you ever looked up at the stars and felt a calming shift? Connecting with nature can help to pull you outside of your inner-world, and shift your attention to the world outside of yourself. Additionally, immersing yourself in nature helps to bring you back to the present moment, easing tension built up due to worries about the future or regrets from the past. This perspective shift coupled with present-moment awareness can help to improve mood, reduce stress, boost energy and inspire creativity. Activities like walking or running, biking, hiking, and camping are all great ways to take advantage of the benefits of enjoying the outdoors.
2. Notice and appreciate the natural objects you encounter every day
Research has shown that in order to enjoy the mood-boosting benefits of the outdoors, we don’t necessarily need to immerse ourselves in nature for long stretches of time. In fact, the simple act of intentionally noticing the natural objects we encounter every day has been linked to increased levels of happiness, and higher levels of connectedness, not just with nature but also with other people. In other words, it really is worth stopping to smell the roses. Try noticing several natural objects–that is, anything that is not man-made–every day, and think about or write about how they make you feel. If you don’t encounter much nature on a daily basis, try going for a walk during a break at work or incorporating an outdoor hobby into your routine.
3. Soak up the sun
This one is easy: get outside and let nature do the work you. Vitamin D, which is produced when sunlight is absorbed through the skin, has been linked to reduced pain as well as improved mood and sleep. Just be careful not to overdo it – overexposure to the sun can be harmful to your skin. Luckily, you can enjoy the benefits of sunlight even when your skin is not exposed to it; in fact, sunlight has been linked to increased levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps to improve mood among other benefits, even if it is being enjoyed from under a shady umbrella.
As the temperatures rise and flowers begin to bloom, don’t miss out on the many health benefits of getting outside. While enjoying the outdoors might boost your mood in the short-term, a more comprehensive approach to treatment will often be necessary for people who are suffering. Meeting with a therapist can be an effective way to confront factors contributing to mood problems, anxiety, relationship problems and more.