It’s Earth Day! Celebrate outdoors – and boost your mental health!

Apr 22, 2022

By: Allie Andrews, CEAS

Did you know spending even just a few minutes outside each day can reduce your stress and improve your mental wellbeing? This Earth Day, we are celebrating mother nature while also reaping the benefits of being outside.

A 2013 study done in the UK showed that people who spent time in nature demonstrated more positive emotions, were more relaxed, and reported improved spiritual wellbeing. This could be because spending time in nature activates different parts of your brain. Exposure to nature appears to increase our parasympathetic nervous activity – the system that counteracts the effects of stress. Even a short amount of time spent outside can lead to a sense of calm, lower heart rate, and lower blood pressure as a result.

Being outdoors and exposed to natural light also triggers melatonin production. Ever notice how you start to need a nap in the mid-afternoon after spending the day in the office? Going outside in the daylight even for a few minutes helps regulate your circadian rhythm, increases your alertness during the day and makes it easier to fall asleep at night. One study has even shown that spending 20-30 minutes in nature can lead to a decrease in cortisol levels – a stress hormone. Spending time in natural light also stimulates Vitamin D production & Serotonin to provide a mood boost. Vitamin D has further been shown to boost your immunity!

So how can you increase your time outdoors? Here are our tips:

  • Eat your lunch outside in a green space or park.
  • Go for a walk – working from home? Take a quick 10-minute walking “commute” around your neighborhood. Or take a break with a stroll!
  • Start a garden.
  • Make hiking, paddling, or picnicking in the park part of your weekend plans.
  • Don’t need your laptop for a call? Go mobile and take it outside.
  • Go on a nature safari – learn about your local wildlife, plants and ecosystem.

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