Most people know the physical benefits of walking and spending time doing things outside. It’s great for your cardiovascular health, your muscles, and bones.
But, walking in nature also has many mental health benefits that you may not have realized before. It’s such a simple action, but it can make a big difference in how you feel daily. Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to get outside more often?
So, exactly how does walking in nature improve your mental health? What are the benefits, and how should you get started?
Nature is a Natural Stress Reliever
Simply being outside can help to improve your mental health. Studies have shown that spending time in nature is a natural way to relieve stress. Even just spending a few minutes outside can ease muscle tension, lower your blood pressure, and improve brain activity.
Cortisol levels tend to drop when you’re outside, which is the hormone that produces stress. So, if you’re even sitting on a park bench and enjoying the scenery, you’re likely to feel calmer than you would if you were sitting indoors.
Being outside also gives you an endorphin boost. Endorphins are chemicals in the brain responsible for feelings of happiness.
So, even if you take a few breaks in your day to step outside for some fresh air, you’ll experience some of the mental health benefits nature has to offer.
But, you can take things one step further by being active outdoors.
Walking Your Way to Better Mental Health
While being outside can give you an endorphin boost, taking it one step further by being active outdoors will make things even better.
You’ve probably heard of something called a “runner’s high” before. It’s a term used to describe the endorphin boost runners experience after exercising, which happens naturally in the brain after physical activity.
But, you don’t need to be an avid runner to experience that feeling. Simply walking outside can give you the same endorphin rush.
Exercise increases levels of serotonin in the brain, which can make you feel more relaxed, happier, and more upbeat. It will also give you more energy. So, if you’re feeling sluggish at any point in your day, a brisk walk outside can make a difference.
Helping With Current Mental Health Issues
Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health conditions in the world. People experience them in different ways, and some can function better than others. In most cases, some type of treatment is needed to manage each condition, usually including therapy, medication, or a combination of both.
But, those who do best with existing mental health conditions also take the time to fight the symptoms on their own each day (in addition to getting help).
Walking in nature is a fantastic way to combat anxiety and/or depression. If you’re experiencing strong symptoms at any point or even struggling with an anxiety attack, taking a walk – even just around your neighborhood – can help to eliminate that fear and stress for a while, so you can take control of your thoughts once again.
A daily walk can also boost your mood enough to help you fight off depression. There are even certain types of therapies for depression that focus on doing activities outside because it’s so beneficial.
So, the next time you’re thinking about taking a walk outside, consider the mental health benefits as well as the physical. Doing so might help to motivate you even more. The more you choose to walk in nature, the sooner you’ll start to see the mental health benefits that come from that choice.