Dec 14, 2022

Why Participating in Outdoor Activities Can Benefit Your Mental Health

hiking gold strike hot springs

Some stats say that we get an average of seven hours of screen time a day, and that number has been going up. While some of this is necessary and unavoidable, there’s a downside. According to some studies, excessive screen time can lead to mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and brain fog. What’s the solution? Well, one answer is to get outdoors! Research tells us that doing outdoor activities has all sorts of mental health benefits.

Let’s explore.

Reap the Benefits of Being Outdoors

To be clear, getting outside doesn’t have to mean venturing to the other side of the world (although you can certainly do that!). Even spending time in your own garden or visiting the neighborhood park can work wonders for your mental health.

Here are some of the benefits, according to science.

1. It Improves Creativity 

Science suggests that spending time outside can replenish depleted energy circuits. In fact, in one study, hikers were able to solve 47% more puzzles requiring creative thinking, compared to a control group who hadn’t yet hiked. 

While this doesn’t necessarily prove cause and effect, it does suggest that Mother Nature can restore our brains and creativity, helping us look at things in a new way.

Outdoor activities can also boost creativity because, whereas we spend much of the day multitasking, heading outdoors allows us to focus only on the task at hand — whether it’s a brisk walk or a strenuous hike. Silencing all of the other daily distractions makes room for creative bursts of energy.

2. Spending Time Outdoors Reduces Stress

Outdoor excursions are some of the best de-stressors. But why? Well, they boost the production of endorphins — neurotransmitters released by our bodies during pleasurable activities. Enjoying good food and conversations next to a campfire is fun, but there’s nothing better than having an active lifestyle and producing feel-good hormones.

In fact, spending merely 10 minutes in a natural environment can positively impact your mental health. This is why nature-based healing approaches have been recommended for those experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression. There are many programs people can do with the guidance of an ecotherapist, from gardening to swimming in rivers.

You don’t need to be diagnosed with a mental health condition to enjoy the benefits of nature therapy, either. Are you feeling down? Get out there, move your body, and connect with Mother Nature to boost your mood. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in the nearest park, your own garden at home, or a rainforest on the other side of the planet.

people visiting Las Vegas hot springs

3. It Makes Us Happier

Nature makes us happier, calmer, and more focused. It gives us a relaxing, peaceful experience that instantly defeats negative feelings and eventually leads to mental and emotional healing.

More specifically, studies show that people who spend even just two hours each week on beaches, in woodlands, parks, and other natural settings have a more positive outlook than those who spend less time with nature. Moreover, a 2018 review suggests that as little as 10 minutes of weekly physical routines can make people happier.

Achieve greater happiness by doing more physical activities! For example, kayaking is an exercise routine that can improve longevity, self-esteem, and emotional health. All of these things influence our levels of happiness in many ways. 

4. Nature Helps Us Foster New Relationships

Individuals experiencing social isolation and loneliness struggle with mental deterioration. Thankfully, there are many ways to feel more loved and connected. A quiet yet challenging experience in green spaces can give you a sense of purpose and improve the quality of your life.

More importantly, long-term healthy relationships can blossom amid fun nature activities, making it an amazing way to bond with loved ones and meet new friends with similar interests. Several studies have shown that those who enjoy a good support system have fewer health problems and live longer.

Social connection is closely associated with one’s mental and emotional well-being. Going on solo, self-guided tours is cost-efficient and allows you to get to know yourself deeper. However, engaging in outdoor activities with friends in a scenic and natural setting can forge stronger relationships. You can depend on each other for safety and support in unexpected situations.

At Evolution Expeditions, groups of friends both old and new take a guided kayak tour that shows you a different side of Las Vegas.

5. Experience Better Cognitive Function

Simply being with nature can boost brain health and psychological well-being. It can also positively impact our cognitive abilities, improving work performance and productivity. Cognition pertains to our ability to learn, keep our focus, process information, and remember details.

The thing is, our brains can’t function to the best of their abilities when they’re tired and less motivated. A 2019 review reports that green spaces near schools cultivate cognitive development in children. Furthermore, adults who enjoy nature views near their homes demonstrate improved brain function compared to those who don't have easy access to beautiful natural scenery.

Learning new outdoor activities can be stressful as they force us to navigate new environments and experience things we have never encountered before. But they also introduce challenging situations and force us to seek practical solutions to complex problems. Even a short trip can enhance cognitive flexibility and problem-solving skills, eventually helping us do better at work or school.

Outdoor Activities for Better Mental Health

There are many simple, cost-effective ways to spend quality time with nature. While more leisurely activities are great, you might consider kicking things up a notch and trying something more physically demanding! Plan your new nature adventure today to start your journey to psychological wellness. Your body and mind will thank you — especially after a long day sitting at your computer and scrolling on your smartphone.

Las Vegas isn’t all bars, nightclubs, and casinos. We also have some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Book your guided kayak tour today, get out of the house, and enjoy the boost to your mental (and physical) health. Evolution Expeditions has tours to both the Hoover Dam and Emerald Cave, plus surrounding areas. We can’t wait to explore with you!

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