How to Improve Your Mental Health
in Mother Nature
The busy pace of modern life leaves little time for enjoying the great outdoors. Families especially may struggle to find the time to explore nature where they live. However, research continues to show that time in nature can significantly improve your mental health and physical wellbeing.
Even in a fast-paced life, there are many innovative ways to spend more time outside. If you can, simplifying your schedule is well worth the extra time outdoors.
In the meantime, here are six ideas for how you can improve your mental health in Mother Nature.
Live Life Outside
Moving inside tasks outside is one of the easiest ways you can get more outdoor time on a daily basis. Although chores may take a little longer, they’ll also be more fun. Consider folding laundry on the porch or eating lunch outside instead of indoors.
You may also need to change your daily priorities in order to spend more time outside. It’s easy to get very focused on chores and other work and forget the importance of rest and reflection. Time outside can help you unwind and reconnect with your inner child.
Try scheduling 10-15 minutes of time a day to simply sit outside and do nothing else. You’ll be amazed at how building in time for fun and reflection can boost your mood and reduce mental rumination.
Bring Nature Indoors
Studies show that bringing nature inside can also have a positive effect on your health. To supplement the benefits of your time outside, put houseplants and images of nature in the areas of your house where you spend the most time.
Making your workstation nature-friendly can be especially helpful for your mental health. Connection to nature while working reduces stress and improves productivity. Many houseplants also work to purify indoor air.
Working by a window with natural light and a view is ideal. If your office doesn’t have a window, consider using a lamp that simulates sunlight and surrounding yourself with images of nature.
Work Out in the Fresh Air
Working out is wonderful for your physical and mental health, and it’s something that many people already do every day. Try moving your workouts outside to reap even higher results for your mental health.
Some good options for outdoor workouts include walking, running, hiking, kayaking, and backpacking. You can even invest in outdoor exercise equipment and do muscle training in the fresh air and sunshine.
Spending time outside will increase your sense of playfulness and help you disconnect from stress and the pressures of life. Outdoor workouts are an excellent way to improve your mood naturally, without any side effects that are worse than a sunburn.
Socialize Under the Sun
Many adults don’t plan much social time into their lives because they are so focused on their responsibilities. You can enrich your life in two ways at once by planning to meet your friends outside more often.
Outdoor social events don’t have to be complicated. Go for a walk together on the rail trail, and bring your kids along to increase their outdoor time. You could also plan a simple picnic and spend a few hours in the park talking and watching your kids play.
For more involved time outside, go on an overnight camping trip or plan a lake day. The options for outdoor social time are endless, and they change with every season. They’ll also help you find friends who are as committed to outdoor time as you are.
Adjust to Weather
Although cold and wet weather may keep you indoors more often during certain parts of the year, there are many innovative ways to get your feet on the ground despite outdoor conditions. Start by wearing appropriate clothing and making outside sessions shorter during bad weather.
If it rains a lot where you live, find a comfortable spot on your porch or by a window and spend time watching the rain. You can enrich the experience with a cup of tea, a warm blanket, and soothing music.
During the winter, it may be more challenging to spend time outside. Bundle up against cold temperatures, and participate in winter experiences like ice skating, sledding, and snowshoeing. Even a 20-minute walk in the snow can rejuvenate your mind and carry you through another cold week indoors.
Hunt for Treasure
Although spending time outside for its own sake is fun, sometimes you’re more likely to go outside if you have a specific reason. Another way to spend more time outdoors is to build outdoor treasure hunts into your life.
For example, you could go for a 10-minute walk to watch birds during a work break. During the spring and summer, you could use outdoor time to gather wildflowers for the dinner table or to look for bird nests in the trees around your house.
Both children and adults enjoy a good treasure hunt, so this idea is perfect for outdoor family time. You can even create a list or coloring sheet with items that your kids have to find and then watch the fun begin.
Garden It Out
You don’t have to go full farmer to reap the benefits of gardening. Taking time to get your hands dirty and experience nature with all your senses is a grounding and rewarding experience. While it’s easier to garden if you have land, many city dwellers find innovative ways to grow food right where they are.
For example, try growing herbs under your kitchen window or put terra cotta pots out on your porch. Most plants need around six hours of direct sunlight each day, but you can easily move pots to follow seasonal changes in sunlight.
Many traditional fruits and vegetables grow well in pots, including some kinds of tomatoes, peppers, carrots, garlic, and most herbs. Start small and branch out as you gain experience. You can also try involving your children. If you aren’t careful, you may become a little obsessed.
Plan Nature Adventures
Even busy families need a break every now and then. The next time you’re planning a family vacation, make time in nature your primary entertainment. Instead of going to Disney World, take your family camping and hike through a national park.
The time away from screens and everyday responsibilities will do wonders for your mental health and your family’s peace. Spending quality time together outside is also a great way to deepen family bonds and make unique memories.
If you don’t have time for a lengthy trip, start incorporating short adventures into your weekend family time. For example, you could stargaze, go for a hike in a local park, or take your family kayaking.
Research shows that time in nature is time well spent. Not only can it reduce stress, but natural settings can also boost your mood and improve physical and mental wellbeing. The value of time outside cannot be overstated.
Use these six tips to spend more of your day outside so that you can enjoy the many benefits that come from being surrounded by Mother Nature. Just ten minutes outside a day can add up to over an hour of time per week and lead to a significant improvement in your mental health.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
This two-part guide is an easy-to-read summary of the essential skills you need for a healthy mind and body.
The first eBook, Looking After Yourself, covers some of our most popular content and will help you to live a happier, healthier and more productive life.
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About the Author
Ava Roman (she/her) is the Managing Editor of Revivalist, a women’s lifestyle magazine that empowers women to live their most authentic life. When Ava is not writing you'll find her in a yoga class, advocating for body positivity, whipping up something delicious in the kitchen, or smashing the patriarchy.