• Bryan Donoghue

Mental Health and Mother Nature: Finding your Balance Outdoors

Improve Your Mental Health By Camping, Hiking, or just Getting Outside


sunset over a lake casts brilliant hues of pink across the scattered clouds above. A pier stretches long into the lake

Photo Credit: Becci Danforth


 

Find a dispersed campsite near National Park land. Read exclusive stories, learn a new camping recipe, or get tips to enhance your thruhiking. Be among the first to get exclusive stories, trail reports and more from our growing team of experienced campers, backpackers, thru hikers, and fellow adventure lovers.



 

Life’s challenges can often feel overwhelming. Even a seemingly average day can easily spin out of control, provoking your worst instincts and impacting your overall mental health. It’s no wonder that prescription rates of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are on the rise. But did you know that there are other, more natural ways to calm your mind and raise your mood?


According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a simple walk outside has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. So, when the world feels heavy, turn to the great outdoors for some natural relief. Here are some tips from Pathloom to get you started.


a sign carved into petrified wood reads 'trail end' next to a pillar of stacked rocks. In the distrance, the striated brown rocks of southern Utah stretch across the expanse

Arches National Park: Moab, UT - Photo Credit: Falco Rodriguez



Start Simple


You may be thinking, “I can barely get all of my responsibilities done as it is. How am I supposed to get back into nature?” Start with a walk during your lunch break, or go outside and play with your dog. Stepping away - even briefly - from technology and deadlines can do wonders for your mental health.


Instead of taking your lunch in the cafeteria or at your desk, sit outside. Simply being outdoors, listening to the birds, and soaking in some sun can reduce stress and lift your mood. According to LifeWorks, a little sun can boost your serotonin levels, which “helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety while boosting your mood.”


And for those times that you truly can’t get outside, bring a little of the outside into your work and living spaces. VeryWellMind reported that nearly 3 out of 4 survey participants felt that their indoor plants improved their mental well-being during recent isolation periods, and “More than 55% of respondents said they wished they'd had more plants in their homes at that difficult time.”


The setting sun blasts golden light across a pond in Arkansas. The sky above begins to grow pink

Hot Springs National Park: Hot Springs, AR - Photo Credit: Chris Blake



Just Get Outside


The weekends should be a time to relax and rejuvenate, but many of us spend that time catching up on our favorite movies and shows. While there’s nothing wrong with a little binge-watching, try swapping out your tv time with a short nature outing. No matter where you live, you’ll find some little piece of nature ready for you to explore. Whether they are hidden botanical gardens in the city, the majestic peaks at Garden of the Gods, a picnic at your local park, or a nearby day hike, these small activities can yield significant boosts to your mental health.


With a little research, you may even find some hidden historical gems in your neighborhood. See how many you can find, and then plan a little self-guided tour of your city. Let yourself walk around places you have never thought to explore, and perhaps learn something in the process. In fact, learning something new promotes brain health, which also supports improved mental health!


The unseen sun setting is casting brilliant colors across the clouds above Big Sur in California

Big Sur, CA - Photo Credit: Bryan Donoghue



Explore the World


If you have the time and resources, take some bigger leaps into the natural world. An inexpensive way to start is camping. You can borrow or rent a few supplies, secure a campsite nearby, and have a great unplugged weekend connecting with nature. If you travel with the whole family, you can take in everything the outdoors has to offer, and even enjoy fun activities like looking for constellations, planetary conjunctions, or meteor showers in the night sky or tracking storms.


Ready for something bigger? Look into longer vacation travel or farther destinations. Getting out of your daily routine can give you a new perspective and boost your self-esteem. Travel often puts you out into nature, too. Depending on where you go, there will be trails to hike, paths to cycle, cafes to enjoy outdoors, and sites to explore.


Taking care of your mental health is very important. Your mind and body are connected, so if you aren’t taking care of one, they both will suffer. Being proactive with your mental health can help prevent burnout and illness. So the next time you feel worn down by your routine, pick yourself up and get out! Soak up some Vitamin D, let your toes touch the earth, and explore something new. Your mind and body will thank you for it!


The sunrise casts pink, purple, and orange brilliance across the cloudy sky above the rocky alien terrain of Pinnacles National Park in southern Utah

Pinnacles National Park, UT - Photo Credit: Chris Blake


 

At Pathloom, our mission is to get more people outdoors, more often. We believe everyone should have access to the benefits and beauty of nature, and that the current stressful and disorganized trip planning process should not prevent anybody from doing so. Send us a message. We’d love to hear from you!

 

Guest Blogger Camille created Bereaver after she went through the ups and downs of the bereavement process herself following the loss of her parents and husband. With the help of her friend who was also experiencing a loss of her own, she learned how to grieve the healthy way, and she wants to share that with others. There is no one way to grieve, but it is important to do it in a way that supports your physical and mental health throughout.

 

Find a dispersed campsite near National Park land. Read exclusive stories, learn a new camping recipe, or get tips to enhance your thruhiking. Be among the first to get exclusive stories, trail reports and more from our growing team of experienced campers, backpackers, thru hikers, and fellow adventure lovers.



 

Check out these other articles by Pathloom which you may enjoy:


Trip Report: Teton Crest Trail

The Glory of Yosemite

Very Superstitious: Phoenix In The Fall

The Resilience of the Redwoods: Big Basin’s Rise from the Ashes

Leave No Trace Principles

Types of Camping

Where the West Begins



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Pathloom is a Bay Area-based technology startup on a mission to get more people outdoors, more often by reimagining the outdoor trip planning app.