A natural way to reduce stress and improve mental health: get outdoors! 1


Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.

  – John Muir

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I never realized or understood that nature could be therapeutic until I got my bike a few months ago. Not that I didn’t enjoy being outside before, but I have never really done many activities/had any hobbies that involved being outside much. I played volleyball my whole life, practically year-round for as long as I can remember and always played indoor. The last few years I have really gotten into running and would run outside but more for exercise rather than enjoyment of the scenery and I’ve almost always lived in a very suburban areas with nice trees and what not but I wouldn’t call that nature. Plus, unless you’re a marathon runner, you can only cover a radius so far outside your house, unless you drive somewhere to run, which I am too lazy to do. I’ve also never been a walker… I’m too impatient/restless and get bored.

 

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Enter the bike. Biking is so much less stressful on your body and you can actually enjoy the nature around you. Also, it is so much easier to get outside the suburban bubble and into some real nature. Plus I can spend way more time in nature biking than running. Columbus has a lot of bike paths that go through wooded areas which are GORGEOUS. You get to enjoy nature and be active! Best of both worlds.

 

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When I bike I swear it is therapeutic. I immediately feel less stressed and my mind is clearer and calmer. Being surrounded by such beautiful nature really puts things into perspective and makes me appreciative of the world and happy that I am living healthily in it.

 

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Studies have shown that being in nature can reduce stress, depression, and even increase focus and brain performance (1,2,3,4). A study done by scientists at the University of Michigan found “performance on memory and attention tests improved by 20 percent after study subjects paused for a walk through an arboretum” (1). Another study showed people who watched a nature video following a stressful video recovered quicker from the stress than those who watched a video without nature (3).

 

In fact, people are actually describing being exposed to nature as a new kind of therapy, ecotherapy (4). Not only is this therapy free and accessible to almost everyone, but its believed to be as effective against depression as traditional psychotherapy and medication. Another research study was done on a group of people suffering from depression and it was found that after a walk through a country park, 90% of people had a higher self esteem and 75% felt less depressed (4).

 

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So if you’re feeling stressed, depressed, or just down in the dumps try getting outside, even if its only for 5 minutes!  Whether its a walk, hike, jog, or bike ride make sure you get outside and soak up the beautiful weather! (while you still  can before it gets cold!!!)  🙂

 

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