A Breath of Fresh Air: The Mental Health Benefits of Stepping Outside
By Ilan Stein
When one goes outside, the physical benefits of getting out, breathing fresh air, and doing exercise are very easily seen. Increasing your blood flow, upping your heart rate, and getting some of that essential Vitamin D are all beneficial to physical health and keeping your body in grade A shape. Though these benefits are always cited, the mental benefits of going outside are more often overlooked. In recent times, the mental health of many took a devastating hit due to circumstances out of their control. In order to remain sane, many took to one of the simplest yet most effective outlets to unwind: The Outdoors. Now more than ever, it is essential to consider how beneficial it is to go outside - even if just for a few short minutes - for our overall mental well-being.
Going outside has a variety of positive effects on mental health. For example, one of the more obvious mental health benefits of going outside is its positive effect on one’s mood. Personally, after a stressful event such as a math test, stepping out for a stroll or a short bike ride has turned my frustration with the day to gleeful happiness. But don’t just rely on my word, researchers have found in various studies that contact with nature leads to increases in happiness, positive social interactions, and a stronger sense of meaning in life. Broader studies have even suggested that going outside can help with long-term negative mental feelings. For example, an NIH study even pointed to hiking as being a potential cure for depression!
Emotional mental health isn’t the only thing that is positively affected by being in nature. Our brain’s thinking capability can also be improved by simply being outside. Studies have shown that being in the presence of more green space, a large quantity of which is found outdoors, can actually improve our ability to pay attention, focus, and improve our working memory. Evidently, going outside is not simply just a fun activity that can make you feel infinitely better, but also has the potential to increase your brain function.
In essence, getting out into nature and the beauty of the outdoors is just as beneficial for the mind as it is to the body. So, the next time you hit a roadblock on an assignment, or are feeling particularly stressed with life, take a step back and do something outside. Whether it be a hike, bike ride, or a simple walk around the neighborhood, a simple escape could be all that you need in order to recenter and gain inspiration. After your time outside, you’ll be able to come back fresh in both mind and spirit, ready to take on the challenges and roadblocks that lie ahead.