A walk on the beach. A hike in the woods. Lying on the grass in your back yard. Connecting with nature is a wonderful way to relax and improve your mental health.
Research says: Nature is good for your brain.
In fact, a 2015 study out of Stanford found quantifiable evidence that walking in nature could lead to a lower risk of depression. The research showed a connection between being in nature and decreased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with depression and rumination (repetitive negative thoughts about oneself.)
The Stanford study compared walks in urban or natural settings, showing substantial benefits from walking for 90 minutes in nature. Another recent study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that even spending as little as five minutes outdoors was linked to a significant mood boost.
Physical benefits too.
Being outdoors in nature spurs family time together with hiking, biking and more. Walking in nature can improve your blood pressure and heart rate as well. Vitamin D from the sun boosts the immune system. And increased physical health contributes to a feeling of overall well-being.
But I live in the city! What should I do?
Even in urban settings, nature might not be as unattainable as you think. TimeOut Chicago recently published a list of the best 10 places to hike near Chicago. Most are free. Some are right in the city. Others are within 30 minutes to an hour, including some accessible by Chicago’s commuter rail system, Metra. See the full list for Chicago here, or search online for bike paths and trails near you.
What are you waiting for? Bring lots of water and sunscreen, and perhaps some bug spray, depending on where you live. And get outside and enjoy!
And if you have questions about depression or other mental health concerns for you or a loved one, please feel free to give us a call at 847.759.9110 x1.