7 Surprising Mental Health Benefits Of Outdoor Time Which One Will Motivate You To Go For A Walk Today?

7 Surprising Mental Health Benefits Of Outdoor Time Which One Will Motivate You To Go For A Walk Today?

7 Surprising Mental Health Benefits Of Outdoor Time Which One Will Motivate You To Go For A Walk Today? 

Spending time outdoors has long been touted as a healthy habit, but did you know that it can have a profound impact on your mental well-being? From reducing stress and anxiety to boosting your mood and creativity, the benefits of outdoor time are truly remarkable. In this blog post, we'll explore seven surprising mental health advantages of embracing nature, and by the end, you'll be itching to lace up your shoes and head outside.


  1. Reduced Stress and Anxiety 

One of the most well-documented benefits of outdoor time is its ability to alleviate stress and anxiety. Numerous studies have shown that spending time in natural environments can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and promote a sense of calm and relaxation. 

The Japanese practice of "forest bathing," or Shinrin-yoku, has gained widespread popularity for its stress-reducing effects. This practice involves immersing oneself in the sights, sounds and smells of a natural forest setting, which has been shown to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. 

According to a 2014 review of previous academic research, nature provides relief and recovery from stress and mental fatigue. War veterans and at-risk youth exhibited fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder upon returning from whitewater rafting trips than pre-trip, University of California–Berkeley researchers found in 2018[1]. Residents of a neighborhood in Ghent, Belgium, with an abundance of green space reported feeling happier than residents from a neighborhood with less green space[2]

But you don't have to venture into a dense forest to reap these benefits. Even a short walk in your local park or neighborhood can provide a much-needed respite from the demands of daily life. The simple act of removing yourself from the hustle and bustle of the indoors and surrounding yourself with the sights and sounds of nature can help you decompress and find a 

sense of inner peace. 

  1. Improved Mood and Happiness 

Spending time outdoors has been linked to an improved mood and increased levels of happiness. Exposure to natural environments has been shown to boost the production of serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that play a crucial role in regulating mood and promoting feelings of well-being.

For example, a study of 4,515 U.K. residents found that people reported more connection to nature and felt more restored after visiting rural and coastal locations deemed to be "high environmental quality", such as nature reserves and protected habitats[3]

Another study surveyed 359 U.K. residents and found that when people with low social connectedness had high levels of nearby nature, they reported high levels of well-being, suggesting that nature can help buffer the effects of loneliness or social isolation[4]

The positive effects of outdoor time on mood and happiness are believed to be multifaceted. Not only does exposure to nature provide a welcome reprieve from the stressors of daily life, but it also offers opportunities for physical activity, social interaction, and a sense of connection to something larger than ourselves – all factors that contribute to overall well-being. 

  1. Improved Cognitive Function and Creativity 

Spending time in nature has been shown to enhance cognitive function and boost creativity. Numerous studies have demonstrated that exposure to natural environments can improve attention, memory, and problem-solving abilities, as well as increase levels of creativity and inspiration. 

A study randomly assigned sixty adults to a 50-min walk in either a natural or an urban environment in Palo Alto, California, and found that compared to the urban experience, nature experience led to affective benefits (decreased anxiety, rumination, and negative affect, and preservation of positive affect) as well as cognitive benefits (increased working memory performance)[5]

Whether you're a student struggling to concentrate on your studies, a professional seeking innovative solutions, or simply someone looking to exercise your mental muscles, spending time outdoors can provide the cognitive boost you need. 

  1. Reduced Risk of Depression 

Outdoor time has been linked to a lower risk of developing depression and improved management of existing depressive symptoms. Numerous studies have explored the connection between nature exposure and mental health, and the findings are compelling. 

For example, using a nationally representative sample of American adults, found that individuals who spent 5–6 or 6–8 h outdoors during weekends had lower odds of being at least mildly depressed, compared with individuals who spent less than 30 min outdoors on weekends[6]. Another study from the UK suggested that lower levels of depression were associated with spending five hours or more weekly in a private garden[7]

The reasons behind this connection are multifaceted. Exposure to nature has been shown to increase levels of vitamin D, which has been linked to improved mood and reduced risk of

depression. Additionally, the physical activity and social interaction that often accompany outdoor pursuits can contribute to improved mental health and a sense of community and connection. 

  1. Improved Sleep Quality[8][9] 

Spending time outdoors during the day has been shown to improve sleep quality at night. Our bodies' natural sleep-wake cycles are regulated by our exposure to sunlight, which helps synchronize our circadian rhythms. 

Exposure to natural light during the day can help increase levels of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep, at night. This can lead to better sleep quality, easier falling asleep, and more restful sleep overall. 

Additionally, the physical activity and stress-reducing benefits of outdoor time can contribute to improved sleep quality. Regular exercise has been shown to promote better sleep, and the calming effects of nature can help quiet the mind and prepare the body for restful slumber. 

If you're struggling with insomnia or poor sleep quality, incorporating outdoor time into your daily routine may help reset your body's natural sleep-wake cycle and promote more restful nights. 

  1. Increased Sense of Connection and Mindfulness 

Spending time in nature can foster a deeper sense of connection and mindfulness. The beauty and vastness of the natural world can inspire a sense of awe and wonder, prompting us to slow down and appreciate the present moment[10]

Engaging in mindfulness practices, such as meditation or yoga, outdoors can enhance the experience by incorporating the sights, sounds, and smells of nature[10]. The gentle rustling of leaves, the songs of birds, and the fresh air can help ground you in the present moment and cultivate a deeper sense of connection with the world around you. 

Additionally, immersing yourself in nature can provide a sense of perspective and humility, reminding you of your place in the grand scheme of things. This can foster a greater appreciation for the interconnectedness of all life and a deeper sense of gratitude and reverence for the natural world. 

  1. Improved Physical Health and Longevity 

While the focus of this blog post has been on the mental health benefits of outdoor time, it's important to note that spending time in nature can also have significant physical health benefits. Regular outdoor activity has been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, as well as improved overall physical fitness and longevity.

One study found that individuals who lived in areas with higher levels of green space had a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a longer life expectancy compared to those living in more urban environments[11]. Another study revealed that individuals who engaged in regular outdoor physical activity experienced improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and overall cardiovascular health[12]

The physical health benefits of outdoor time are believed to be due to a combination of factors, including increased physical activity, exposure to fresh air and natural light, and the stress-reducing effects of being in nature. 


As we've explored, the mental health benefits of spending time outdoors are numerous and far-reaching. From reducing stress and anxiety to boosting mood and cognitive function, embracing nature can have a profound impact on our overall well-being. 

So, which of these seven surprising benefits will motivate you to lace up your shoes and head outside for a walk today? Perhaps it's the promise of reduced stress and anxiety or the allure of improved mood and happiness. Maybe it's the cognitive boost and increased creativity that piques your interest, or the potential for better sleep quality that catches your eye. 

Whatever your motivation, one thing is clear: Spending time in nature is an investment in your mental and physical health that pays dividends in ways you may never have imagined. So why not take that first step and experience the transformative power of outdoor time for yourself? 

Remember, even a short walk in your local park or neighborhood can provide a much-needed respite from the demands of daily life. So embrace the beauty of nature, breathe in the fresh air, and allow yourself to be rejuvenated by the restorative power of the great outdoors. 


[1] Berto, Rita. “The role of nature in coping with psycho-physiological stress: a literature review on restorativeness.” Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 4,4 394-409. 21 Oct. 2014, doi:10.3390/bs4040394 

[2] Anderson, Craig L et al. “Awe in nature heals: Evidence from military veterans, at-risk youth, and college students.” Emotion (Washington, D.C.) vol. 18,8 (2018): 1195-1202. doi:10.1037/emo0000442 

[3] Wyles, Kayleigh J. “Are Some Natural Environments More Psychologically Beneficial than Others? The Importance of Type and Quality on Connectedness to Nature and Psychological Restoration - Kayleigh J. Wyles, Mathew P. White, Caroline Hattam, Sabine Pahl, Haney King,

Melanie Austen, 2019.” Environment and Behavior, 2019, 


[4] Cartwright, Benjamin D. S., et al. “Nearby Nature ‘Buffers’ the Effect of Low Social Connectedness on Adult Subjective Wellbeing over the Last 7 Days.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health/International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 15, no. 6, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, June 2018, pp. 1238–38, https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15061238. 

[5] Bratman, Gregory N., et al. "The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition." Landscape and Urban Planning 138 (2015): 41-50. 

[6] Beyer, Kirsten M M et al. “Time Spent Outdoors, Depressive Symptoms, and Variation by Race and Ethnicity.” American journal of preventive medicine vol. 51,3 (2016): 281-90. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2016.05.004 

[7] Cox, Daniel TC, et al. "Doses of nearby nature simultaneously associated with multiple health benefits." International journal of environmental research and public health 14.2 (2017): 172. 

[8] Wood, Lindsey A et al. “Time spent outdoors and sleep normality: A preliminary investigation.” Population medicine vol. 3 (2021): 7. doi:10.18332/popmed/132119 

[9] Schamilow, Simon et al. “Time Spent Outdoors and Associations with Sleep, Optimism, Happiness and Health before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Austria.” Clocks & sleep vol. 5,3 358-372. 25 Jun. 2023, doi:10.3390/clockssleep5030027 

[10] Argyriadis, Alexandros et al. “The Impact of Outdoor in Nature Mindfulness on the Mental Well-being of Children and Adolescents. A Mental Health and Cross-cultural Approach.” Materia socio-medica vol. 36,1 (2024): 73-76. doi:10.5455/msm.2024.36.73-76 

[11] Nguyen, Phi-Yen et al. “Green Space Quality and Health: A Systematic Review.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 18,21 11028. 20 Oct. 2021, doi:10.3390/ijerph182111028 

[12] CDC. “Benefits of Physical Activity .” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 Aug. 2023, www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm.

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