Five Percent Brands has always been a passionate mental health advocate and has donated over $1,000 to the Mental Health Foundation so far. We understand how important it is to bring support and awareness to the wider community to help stop the harmful stigma surrounding mental health.

With the pandemic spreading across the globe, lots of people are forced to stay indoors more than ever, which not only jeopardises their physical health but seriously impacts their mental health as well. Burnout, stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental issues are all on the rise as many try to cope with this new stressful reality. And that is why finding the right ways of taking care of your mental health is more important than ever.

We believe that one of the best practices for improving mental health is spending as much time outdoors as possible. Though the pandemic has affected people’s ability to go out and about freely, there are still plenty of ways people can enjoy the outdoors with little to no risk.

In this article, we will tell you about various health benefits you can gain from spending time in nature, while also sharing a few ideas for fun outdoor activities that are healthy and safe.

Firstly, let’s take a look at the key benefits:

Sunlight and fresh air can improve your mood

Multiple studies have proved that exposure to sunlight can greatly boost your mood, improve sleep quality and even protect you from autoimmune diseases. And all of these are due to the vitamin D that our bodies produce when exposed to natural light.

That’s why severe mental health conditions are way more prevalent in the countries located farther away from the equator and are less exposed to direct sunlight or have fewer hours of daylight during the winter months.

Spending time outdoors can reduce your stress levels

You have probably noticed how much better you feel after a long stroll through a forest. The anxiety falls away, your mind clears, and creative ideas start popping in your head one after the other. Well, there is a scientific explanation for this. Researchers in Japan have found that being exposed to nature for as little as 20 minutes a day can considerably reduce cortisol levels, lower blood pressure and increase overall productivity.

Being in nature helps fight anxiety & depression

The majority of conclusive studies of nature's effects on mental health are about its ability to improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Stanford's researchers have noted that people who spend time in nature have demonstrated less neural activity in the brain's region associated with depression than their urban counterparts.

Spending time outside is a free and very effective way of managing and releasing stress. But in today's reality, it is very important to find open-air exercises that are not only fun but also safe. To make it easier for you, we have made a list of health-promoting activities that will allow you to enjoy the great outdoors while still keeping your social distance.

Activities you can do outdoors

Hiking

One of the most affordable and easy outdoor activities is taking a route through the nearest forest, park, or any other place available. Hiking has been proven to provide several health benefits, from physical exercise that one gets when you're out on the trail, to emotional relief that comes from being in the wilderness. 

Taking a long walk is especially beneficial whenever you feel overwhelmed, anxious or experience fatigue after a long day in front of the computer. The change of scenery can provide a perfect boost for your exhausted brain, while the endorphins released through physical activity will improve your mood and sleep quality.

Cycling

Another amazing way of being active outside is cycling. It saves you money, is easily time manageable, and greatly improves your physical and mental health.

One of the most beneficial aspects of cycling for mental health is that it promotes mindfulness. When you are on the route, you focus on the sensations of the present moment instead of being caught up in racing anxious thoughts. You don't need to think about anything except pushing the pedals, balancing the bike, and feeling the breeze. This brings about a break from excessive thinking that so often becomes overwhelming, causing burnout and anxiety.

Yoga

Yoga is well-known for its multiple health benefits. It improves your body strength and flexibility, relieves tension in your muscles, and even promotes the quality of your sleep. And to enhance your practice in a whole new way, take it outside. 

Breathe in the fresh air, soak in the warm sun, and unwind while listening to the sounds of nature. To feel even more relaxed and grounded, try doing yoga barefoot. According to the study published in The Journal of Environmental Public Health, a physical connection between the earth and the skin induces the electrons' transmission. And electrons have been shown to balance hormone levels, reduce pain, release joint tension, and manage free radical oxidation.

Swimming

Have you ever felt relaxed, refreshed, and ready to tackle the day after a good swim? Well, you are not alone.

Research conducted by Swim England found that around 3.3 million British adults with mental health issues who were swimming regularly, at least once every 2-3 weeks, noticed the following changes:

  • 43 % said that swimming made them feel happier;
  • 26 % felt more motivated to complete daily tasks;
  • 15 % claimed that life felt more manageable.

But there is more to these insights than just the reported sense of calm and relaxation. Swimming is also an excellent way to boost your body's capacity for longer and better-quality sleep, which can help you feel less stressed out.

Surfing

You might be surprised to learn that surfing is not only a fancy hobby to have, but that it can also be very efficient in helping with mental health issues.

Surfing therapy has become increasingly popular these days. It’s a type of mental health treatment that is described by the International Surf Therapy Organization as an activity that “combines the therapeutic elements of the ocean with the adventures of surfing to impact the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals worldwide.” It’s usually used to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and PTSD, boost your mood and promote a good night's sleep.

And whether you're getting in or just watching the water, it's such a relaxing environment to be in.  Simply sitting on a beach, wrapped in a hooded towel poncho, feeling the scent of the ocean, and listening to the sound of the waves can have an incredibly soothing effect, which can help you feel engaged and present at the moment.

There are many beautiful outdoor sights and places in every corner that offer spectacular scenery, amazing exercise opportunities, and fun for all ages. Take some time outside and enjoy what this world has to offer. And once you’ve found out how beneficial being outdoors can be, make it a regular habit. We promise that the positive changes will not be long in coming.

March 08, 2022 — Tania Eves

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