How Getting Outside Can Help With Depression, Stress, and Anxiety
By Lance Cody-Valdez for my724outdoors.com
Recovering from difficult periods in life is no small task. Avoiding bad habits like excess alcohol consumption and not getting adequate sleep is a good step. While it’s important to live healthily, though, sudden sweeping changes in your lifestyle aren’t always best. Instead, set reasonable goals and not be too hard on yourself. Also, one great way to help you deal with depression and anxiety is simply by getting out of your own head and getting some fresh air. Read on for some great tips from My724outdoors.
The Forest is a Natural Stress-Reliever
It might sound obvious but being stressed is, well, stressful. However, going outdoors can reduce this anxiety and help you learn to cope with tension on your own. According to NBC News, research has revealed that being in nature is beneficial to your mental health because it reduces stress and cognitive fatigue. One study found that people who walked in a forest had lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and lower blood pressure than people who walked in the city. Spending time hiking or walking through a forest will buffer any anxiety that you may face while struggling with anxiety and depression.
Staying Indoors Can Make It Worse
For people struggling with mental health issues, being inside for long periods of time is risky because it exposes them to various triggers. These triggers include boredom, and if substance abuse has been part of past poor choices, staying inside means spending time in places where drugs or alcohol have frequently been used. Psychology Today reports that drug use alters the connections in the reward and memory areas of the brain. Likewise, depression and racing thoughts can be a kind of drug. That’s why getting outside will keep you away from indoor settings that can act as triggers. It’s also a great way to keep yourself occupied so you can avoid boredom.
Natural Settings Promote Brain Repair
Simply being around nature has amazing effects on our body’s ability to heal itself. In one study, hospital patients who were able to see trees outside their windows enjoyed faster physical healing and lower levels of pain than those looking out at a brick wall. Furthermore, living in a more natural environment is associated with higher levels of happiness and well-being. Being outside in nature removes us from the overstimulating man-made environments where we spend most of our time. Instead, natural environments give our brains an opportunity to relax and make important neural repairs.
Going Outside Forces You to Exercise
If you’re outside, you’re probably moving. Even a light walk outside each day is enough to provide you with the mental benefits of regular exercise. Exercise causes your body to produce noradrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. These are the same brain chemicals that are released during substance use and cause us to feel good. The resulting benefits of exercise are reductions in stress, depression and anxiety. Exercise helps people focus on their recovery, reducing negative feelings and allowing for a clearer vision beyond recovery. You might even want to try your hand at yoga!
You Can Meet New People Outside
Isolation plays a role in hampering a person’s recovery from depression. Forming a connection with other people can provide a valuable distraction from negative thoughts and triggers. Other people are also great for providing confidence boosts and keeping you motivated. The only way to meet people who can fulfill this need is to get out of the house. Take a walk or attend community events to meet people in your neighborhood. These people can become a valuable support network for your journey through recovery.
Make a Home You’ll Be Happy to Inhabit
With all this emphasis on the positive aspects of getting outside, don’t forget that your home can make a big difference in your stress levels as well. Make sure your environment supports a healthy and balanced life, inside and out. For instance, try to view your home as an oasis of calm; remove as much clutter (both mental and physical) from your home as possible. The same goes for your backyard. Try perking things up with a garden or some flowers; if you need a hand, search Angi for “landscapers near me,” and you’ll be amazed at the positive impact a beautiful, peaceful home can have on your mental health!
Remember, don’t expect to change your life overnight. Start small. It can be very difficult to make the lifestyle changes and personal behaviors adjustments that lead to successful recovery. Just remember that, eventually, your brain will rewire to accept your new, healthier normal.
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