Autumn is right around the corner, bringing us cooler temperatures and beautiful foliage. While the heat and humidity over the summer months may have kept you indoors, a step outside during the fall is refreshing and energizing. Need another reason to spend time in nature this season? Look no further than your own mental health. Here are some of the benefits:
- Improved mood. Nature promotes calm and reduces feelings of loneliness, making it an effective mental health booster. In fact, researchers recently found that individuals who consistently connected with nature reported being happier. Much of this can be attributed to the opportunity nature provides for increased activity and socialization, both of which can improve your emotional wellbeing.
- Reduced mental distress. Immersing yourself in nature is a great way to relax when you’re feeling anxious. It allows you to take a break from the strong feelings you’re experiencing. You’ll also be better positioned to put your worries in perspective and refocus in a more positive way. Studies show that time spent outdoors can even lower blood pressure, stress hormone levels and nervous system arousal.
- Increased cognitive function. Perhaps you’ve already experienced the power of stepping away from work—especially computer screens—to give your brain a break and think more clearly. Experimental findings show that both sights and sounds from nature improved cognitive test results among study participants. While urban settings can be over-stimulating and distracting, nature replenishes and helps to improve your focus.
Setting aside even a little time here and there to spend in nature can be beneficial. Here are a few ideas:
- Explore the scheduled activities or programming at your local parks, or hike on your own
- Meet with friends and family members for walks instead of coffee or meals
- Take up a new outdoor hobby, such as gardening, fishing or bird watching
- Paint or read in a green setting
Of course, not everyone has easy access to the great outdoors. If your health, finances or busy schedule are an obstacle, there are other ways you can tap into nature and reap similar benefits. Bring nature indoors with plants and water features, or decorate with paintings and photographs of natural settings. Don’t limit yourself to visual stimulation, however. You can tune in to serene nature sounds, such as a babbling brook or soothing ocean waves, without leaving the house. Check out the many playlists online or consider a sound machine with nature settings.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.