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Mental Health Benefits of Being Outdoors

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

November 28, 2023

Table of Contents

If you are grappling with a mental health disorder or substance use disorder, you can exploit the relationship between nature and mental health to your advantage.

The definition of nature is expansive, including:

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  • Green spaces like parks, forests, and woodlands.
  • Blue spaces like beaches, rivers, and wetlands.
  • Tree-lined urban streets.
  • Public and private gardens.
  • Indoor plants.
  • Window boxes.

While not everyone has the same access to high quality nature, everyone can access nature in some form. A growing body of research suggests that how much you notice, think about, and appreciate your natural surroundings can help to support sound mental health, while at the same time minimizing distress.

Mental Health Benefits of Being Outdoors

There is growing evidence to support the following positive effects of spending time in nature:

  • Alleviates symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
  • Improves sleep quality.
  • Reduces stress levels.
  • Increases happiness.
  • Minimizes negative emotions.
  • Encourages social interaction.
  • Improves overall wellbeing.

Your mind appreciates it when you spend time outdoors in nature. Your focus and cognition will improve. Studies also show that being exposed to the natural environment improves performance in the following areas of the brain:

  1. Memory.
  2. Attentional-control tasks.
  3. Cognitive flexibility.

Research indicates that being in contact with nature is an effective way to improve happiness, wellbeing, social connection, and meaningfulness.

There is a robust body of evidence illustrating the effectiveness of nature for reducing emotional and mental distress. Spending as little as ten minutes sitting, standing, or walking in a natural setting can lead to significant improvements in mental health.

An image of a person on a lake | Mental Health Benefits of Being Outdoors

Benefits of Being Outdoors for Mental Health

If you are facing any kind of mental health problems, you might not feel like leaving home at times. By making the effort to get outside, though, you can achieve all of the above benefits for being outside for mental health free of charge and on-demand.

Additionally, you could achieve the following benefits of nature on mental health:

  1. Nature can be highly restorative, improving your overall well being
  2. Nature has healing properties
  3. Nature is soothing to body and mind

1) Nature can be highly restorative, improving your overall well being

The restorative properties of spending time in natural surroundings can significantly boost your overall well being.

Research shows that spending time outside can improve:

  • Mood.
  • Meaningfulness.
  • Vitality.
  • Psychological well-being.
  • Anxiety levels.

Beyond this, viewing nature or spending time directly in areas of natural beauty can boost your ability to focus and concentrate.

2) Nature has healing properties

Nature therapy, also known as ecotherapy, is sometimes used to supplement evidence-based behavioral interventions. The core goal of ecotherapy is to help you to heal psychologically.

Whether you are exposed to nature, or you simply view nature scenes, this will reduce fear, anger, and stress, while simultaneously increasing positive feelings. Also, exposure to nature in any form delivers many physical benefits, including:

  • Reducing blood pressure levels and heart rate.
  • Soothing muscle tension.
  • Inhibiting the production of stress hormones.

3) Nature is soothing to body and mind

A classic study conducted by Robert Ulrich demonstrates that patients recovering from surgery who had a pleasant view to look out on were more able to tolerate pain than those presented with a view of a wall.

Your physical and mental health are closely intertwined, and nature can impart benefits in both areas.

If you are unable to access any areas of natural beauty, try placing some houseplants indoors and watch nature scenes on TV or online.

Why Going Outside is Good for Your Mental Health

Taking a few minutes to get out of the house and embrace nature in any form can deliver the following mental health benefits:

  • Improve mood.
  • Put your mind at ease.
  • Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Helps you to combat stress.
  • Boost emotional wellbeing.

Take a hike or a run. Consider moving your workout outside. Walk rather than drive when possible. Meditate or practice yoga in the great outdoors. Go swimming. These are all amazing mental health benefits of being outdoors. All you need is 20 to 30 minutes in nature and you can achieve all of the mental health benefits we outline today – what are you waiting for?

Mental Health Treatment at Renaissance Recovery

If you have a mental health condition like anxiety, depression, or PTSD, consider engaging with one of our outpatient treatment programs here at Renaissance Recovery in Orange County.

Whether you need traditional outpatient therapy or virtual rehab, intensive outpatient treatment or a partial hospitalization program, choose a program delivering the level of support and structure you need. Outpatient treatment is more affordable and flexible than residential rehab, while still delivering typically positive outcomes.

For those with a mental health disorder and a co-occurring addiction, we offer integrated and coordinated dual diagnosis treatment.

Your treatment team will customize your therapy to suit your needs, drawing from the following holistic and research-backed therapies:

  • Medications
  • Psychotherapy (CBT or DBT)
  • Counseling (individual and group)
  • family therapy
  • Experiential adventure therapy

When you commit to recovery at Renaissance, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to embrace the great outdoors, while at the same time building skills invaluable for your ongoing recovery.

To maximize your chances of long-term recovery from alcoholism without relapse, reach out to Renaissance today by calling 866.330.9449.

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At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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