Spring is finally here. Sunnier and warmer days and the appearance of colourful spring flowers make the outdoors seem much more inviting after the grey and cold of winter. The benefits of getting outside to physical health are clear, but what may not be quite so obvious are the benefits to mental health.
Studies have shown that being outdoors can help increase self-esteem, improve concentration and mood and reduce social isolation, as well as improve physical health. Whether it be physical activity such as sport, going for a run or a gentle stroll, gardening, or just enjoying a cuppa with a friend in an outdoor café, fresh air, sunshine and being amongst nature is good for you and can be really beneficial to your mental health and well-being.
In a study undertaken by Natural England, the University of Essex and the mental health charity Mind, ecotherapy – or taking part in nature-based therapies or activities, such as care farming, environmental conservation and social and therapeutic horticulture – was shown to improve levels of anxiety, stress and depression amongst sufferers of mental ill health. It was also shown to help improve dementia-related symptoms. The results of the study concluded that ‘green care’ can provide an increasingly important and cost-effective treatment for people with some mental health problems.
In another study undertaken by Stanford University, it was shown that walking in nature can lead to a lower risk of depression. The study found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, compared to those who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain commonly associated with depression.
Now is definitely the time to get outside and take in the joys of spring – and at the same time look after your mental health.