Summer is the season for rest, relaxation, and loads of outdoor fun. In reality, the stresses of work, childcare, and other responsibilities remain unchanged no matter the season. These everyday burdens are amplified for those suffering from mental illness.
Fortunately, there are proven scientific benefits to taking a break and stepping outside.
- Nature makes you smarter. A 2008 study concluded that participants who interacted with nature by walking in a park showed improvements in cognitive function, specifically directed-attention mechanisms, versus those who walked city streets.
- Nature helps you focus. Going outside even for a brief time can give your brain some relief from over-stimulation and mental fatigue. This valuable interruption restores the brain's ability to concentrate.
- Nature alleviates depression. A 2012 study suggests that incorporating outdoor exercise into a standard treatment regimen eases feelings of depression and hopelessness. Those who exercise in nature tend to display a lower risk of mental illness compared with those who engage in physical activity indoors or in their everyday environment.
- Nature improves your body in other ways. Hiking and other outdoor activities not only improve your physical health, there is preliminary evidence that spending time in nature can give a short-term boost to your white blood cells, and increase the blood's antioxidative capacity (AoC), which can help fight disease.
If you are seeking a therapeutic exercise to improve mental health that is inexpensive and always available: exercise outdoors! Don't let living in an urban area discourage you. Some research indicates that simply viewing pictures of nature is beneficial.
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