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The Great Outdoors: A Month for Mental Health

It’s no secret that spending time in nature can be good for your mental health. In fact, research has shown that spending time in nature can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. So, what better way to celebrate National Great Outdoors Month than by spending time outdoors?

There is growing evidence that time spent in nature can have a positive impact on our mental health. A recent study found that participants who went for a 90-minute walk in a natural setting had lower levels of rumination (a type of negative self-reflection) and higher levels of self-esteem and life satisfaction compared to those who walked in an urban setting.

So what is it about nature that seems to have such a positive effect on our mental health?

There are several factors that contribute to improved mental health by spending time outdoors. When outside, humans are forced to disconnect from technology and the constant stream of information and stimulation that can often lead to feelings of anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed.

Additionally, being in nature can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation by increasing levels of the stress-reducing hormone called cortisol. Spending time outdoors can also boost our mood by increasing levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is linked to happiness and well-being. Exposure to sunlight also helps to regulate our circadian rhythms and can improve our sleep quality.

So how long do we need to be outdoors to reap the great mental health benefits? In a recent study of 20,000 people, researchers found that those people that spent two hours a week in green spaces (parks, greenways, or other natural environments) were substantially more likely to report better physical and psychological health than those who don’t. Researchers found that these two hours in nature can either be spent at one time, or spread out throughout the week, as long as the two hour minimum was hit.

Looking for some ways to celebrate “The Great Outdoors” this month? Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Take a walk in nature. One of the simplest and most effective ways to boost your mood is to take a nature walk. Whether you’re hiking through a forest or taking a leisurely stroll through your local park, being in nature can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.

2. Go camping: Camping is a great way to connect with nature and spend time with loved ones. And, it doesn’t have to be expensive – you can even camp in your own backyard!

3. Have a picnic: Enjoying a picnic in the great outdoors is a perfect way to relax and enjoy a healthy meal. If you’re short on time, you can even have a picnic in your local park.

4. Go stargazing: One of the best things about spending time outdoors is being able to appreciate the night sky. If you live in a light-polluted area, consider driving to a dark-sky park or reserve to get the best stargazing experience.

5. Visit a botanical garden: If you’re looking for a more structured outdoor activity, visit your local botanical garden. Botanical gardens are a great way to learn about different plants and flowers, and many offer special events and programs throughout the year.

No matter how you choose to celebrate National Great Outdoors Month, spending time outdoors is a great way to boost your mental health. So get outside and enjoy the fresh air!

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