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  • Jess Hadford-Crook, MA, LPC

Nature and Your Mental Health

“Let them once get in touch with nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life.” – Charlotte Mason

I love living in colorful Colorado. The beautiful mountains are our playground and there is no shortage of fun and adventure to be had. I was inspired to write this blog as we approach spring and the changing of seasons, but the reality is there is joy to be found in nature all year round! If you popped over for my last blog post, you know I am also very passionate about self-care. And for me personally, getting out in nature is one of my favorite ways to practice self-care.

If you are looking for new ways to manage stress, anxiety, and depression, or simply boost your mood, consider getting outside in nature for 20-30 minutes a few days a week. Some studies have even found that being in nature can reduce blood pressure, muscle tension, and stress hormones, as well as help you to feel more creative.

In addition to all the benefits of nature, being outside also usually leads you to being more active and getting your body moving. Outdoor recreation is such a great way to tend to both your mental health and physical health.

One of the most important ways that nature helps with your wellbeing is by sunlight exposure. Sunlight provides Vitamin D. Lack of Vitamin D can lead to depression, anxiety, and poor cognitive functioning. Increased Vitamin D helps with improved overall wellbeing. Vitamin D also helps to improve your immune system. Getting a few minutes of sunshine each day can have a real positive impact on your mood.

There is so much to focus our attention on when we are outside in nature. Unlike when we are stressed at home, at school, or in the office, nature provides us with an open environment to truly engage all of our senses. Next time you’re outside, try practicing 5-senses grounding. Notice five beautiful things you can see in nature; maybe the green leaves on a tree, clear blue water, snow-capped peaks, colorful wildflowers, or a curious critter. Notice four things you can feel; the grass under your feet, the sun on your skin, the breeze in your hair, or a smooth texture of a river rock. Notice three things you can hear; the sound of a bird chirping, a babbling creek, or wind through the trees. Notice two things you can smell; crisp, fresh air or fresh cut grass. Notice one thing you can taste; maybe this is even the sensation of a deep breath of fresh air.

Next time you are in nature, whether deep in the alpine forest, high on a mountain peak, resting along a creek bed, or taking a stroll through your neighborhood park, take the opportunity for the outdoors to calm you, inspire you, and be a space of gratitude.

If you’re wanting to learn more about the benefits of nature on your mental health follow the link to the National Alliance of Mental Health.

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