Enjoy the Great Outdoors and a Healthier Mind this Summer!

Do you know someone who has been bitten by the travel bug and just can’t wait to go on a new adventure? Perhaps you’ve also noticed that they have become more outgoing, positive, optimistic and have a fresh new perspective since seeing more of the world. It’s not an illusion; getting out and enjoying the great outdoors, especially when incorporating new experiences, can be tremendously beneficial for our mental wellness.

Travel doesn’t have to mean venturing to faraway lands, either. Not all of us have the financial privilege or enough time to do so. In actuality, travel represents a journey – regardless of distance – that can, in turn, stimulate the mind. In that sense, it is both an internal and external journey – even a walk down the street to read your favourite book in the park is a fitting example.
Today, let’s explore the mental health effects of enjoying the great outdoors and enjoying the beautiful summer weather.

Tension, Anxiety and Stress Relief

Cortisol is your worst enemy. This stress hormone occurs naturally, but being outdoors and surrounding oneself with nature has been known to alleviate pent-up emotional stress, anxiety and tension. The cortisol levels drop, and muscle tension relaxes. Therefore, sometimes we simply need a space to call our own for even a few minutes, away from home, work, and other members of our household. This is why we see many writers, painters, and other artists seek refuge amid nature rather than boxed up in a studio at home – there’s a sense of freedom and spaciousness that can lend to calmer nerves and enhanced focus. Regardless of whether someone is frustrated at a lack of progress on their passion project or simply wants to get away and contemplate in peace, being outdoors is literally a breath of fresh air.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Physical stimulation by way of regular exercise outdoors is a win-win for mental wellness. Keeping the blood flowing and the mind essentially distracted by a regimen, however light, can help to put repressed feelings and stress triggers on the back burner, to the point where they become less relevant to you. The expression, “all in good time” comes to mind here. Activities such as yoga, cycling, jogging, or simply taking to the trail with your canine companion can go a long way in transforming your current outlook into a more positive one. It’s one of the key reasons why exercise and physical activity outdoors are known to fight depression – we’re not staying still, mentally or physically, to let it take over.

Sparking Joy

If we lead sheltered lives, shoehorned into a corner by social anxiety and isolation, it can be difficult to ever feel completely whole if we don’t try to break out of the bubble. Those usual things we rely on to spark joy – favourite films, familiar friends and the like – may not be enough to keep us in a positive mindset in such instances. Therefore, what about finding new sources of joy? Getting out and seeing more of the world delivers exactly that. Even the smallest gestures and moments, such as receiving an unexpected compliment from a stranger or finding a new favourite band performing in the park – can generate excitement. In short, we need to provide ourselves with something to look forward to every day.

A Choice to be Happy

Time spent in nature, regardless of how active you’re being, can promote a boost to tangible happiness. This is achieved through the accelerated production of dopamine in addition to increased endorphin levels. Combined, they relieve tension and stress, as mentioned earlier, but it also means that being outdoors can literally alter your mood. Blood pressure can also be more easily managed this way, and the mind benefits from a significant boost in activity. In this sense, you have the choice to be happy and feel at ease. All it takes is stepping out over the threshold and into the fresh outdoor air. If you live in a seasonal climate, this can be all the more alluring with ever-changing atmospheres present.

New Horizons

If you do happen to be lucky enough to travel outside of your home country, be prepared for a truly eye-opening and mind-expanding experience. By exposing ourselves to new cultures, ways of life, meals, and customs, we develop an appreciation for the unconventional. In this, over time and with continued travel, some of us find it easier to cope with unexpected circumstances in our “normal” everyday lives back home. In short, the more you explore the great outdoors and see more places, the more optimistic and open-minded you may become.

Summer is a wonderful time to see the sights, enjoy new adventures and bond with loved ones, but don’t forget to look within to see how it reflects onto your own self. If you’re nervous about taking those first steps out, don’t worry, an experienced therapist is ready to help. Contact us today if you’d like to book an initial consultation – we look forward to meeting you and discussing your plans for the summer!