Outdoors and Mental Health
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. There have been significant links between the benefits of being outdoors and in natural environments and the benefits this can have on a person’s mental health, right across the lifetime.
In two European studies, school children were taken camping and hiking to participate in outdoor and adventure programs, believed to help with mindfulness, self-efficacy and subjective well being. It was discovered that in two studies the young adolescents had increase mindfulness, happiness, life-satisfaction and lower levels of stress and demand. These findings suggested that outdoor education and wilderness programs can foster mental health in youths and young adults (1).
An American study investigated the connection between time spent outdoors and depressive symptoms in adults. The evidence suggested that those who worked and spent more time outdoors were less likely to show depressive symptoms, regardless of ethnicity and race. This supports the notion that spending time outside can benefit an adult’s mental health (2).
Another study explored the associations between time spent in green spaces and perceived mental health and vitality in cities across Europe. The findings confirmed that more time spent in green space – like local parks and natural environments – is associated with higher scores on mental health and vitality scales, no matter the culture or climate of the participants (3).
Good mental health is important for living your best life. These studies, and many more, demonstrate the importance of interaction with nature and getting outside to soak up some sunshine, breathe in some fresh air, and connect to the world around us.
- Mutz, M & Muller, J 2016, ‘Mental health benefits of outdoor adventures: Results from two pilot studies’, Journal of Adolescence, vol. 49, pp. 105-114.
- Beyer, KMM, Szabo, A & Nattinger AB 2016, ‘Time spent outdoors, depressive symptoms, and variation by race and ethnicity’, American Journal of Preventative Medicine, vol. 51, no. 3, pp. 281-290.
- van den Ber, M, van Poppel, M, van Kamp, I, Andrusaityte, S et al. 2016, ‘Visiting green space is associated with mental health and vitality: A cross section study in four European cities’, Health & Place, vol. 38, pp. 8-15.