When I talk to friends in the outdoor community, the number one reason they state for getting outdoors is mental health. Whether discovering a passion like hiking brought them out of a dark place in their life, or getting up to the mountains helps when anxiety starts to build, it’s obvious that nature has a healing effect on the mind and soul.
I turn to the outdoors for the sense of peace it gives me. When life gets stressful, when everything seems like it’s falling down around me, when I get short tempered and irritable, I know I’ve been spending too much time indoors. When I’m surrounded by growing things and wide-open skies, when there’s dirt beneath my feet, when the air smells like pine needles drenched in sunlight and my ears are filled with the sounds of babbling brooks and birdsong, that is where my breathing slows and I start to feel calm wash over me.
A study done by Stanford found that individuals who spent 90 minutes walking in nature showed significantly decreased activity in an area of the brain linked to depression. Stanford also found that those who lives in cities are at a 20% greater risk of suffering from anxiety and a 40% greater risk of suffering from a mood disorder than those who live in rural areas.
And according to the National Mental Health Institute, 1 in 6 adults in the U.S. struggle with mental health. If you aren’t personally struggling with mental health, chances are great that you’re close with someone who does.
Our natural places are vital for our mental health. Whether getting out in the fresh air and sunshine helps us de-stress or helps curb feelings of depression, if you recreate outdoors, you know that there’s something magical about nature.
There are so many reasons that our wild places are so important and the balm that they provide to our minds and souls are a big one. Next time you’re feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, take yourself to your nearest public open space and just walk. Keep your phone in your pocket. Breathe. Take note of what you’re seeing, hearing, smelling. Give yourself 90 minutes and see how you’re feeling when you get back to the car: just another reason to Keep it Wild.
Narrator: This blog was thoughtfully written by Mikaela Ruland. You can find her on Instagram @airundermyheels.