Hanging Outside: A Natural Antidepressant

written by: Grace Dickinson, Temple University

Making Time to Be Outside

Spring weather is the perfect excuse to go outside and get moving. Not only will that evening walk/run lead you to a fitter body, but likely a smiling face as well.

Exercise alone has been proven to improve one’s mood because of all those endorphins levels it raises. Numerous studies, such as this one (Link: http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/170/4/321) published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, have shown that exercise can naturally reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Pair your moving body with an outdoor setting and your almost guaranteed to see your spirits lifted.

A study conducted last year by the University of Essex, showed that exercising in nature for just five minutes a day can significantly boost a person’s mood, self-esteem, and mental health. Researches analyzed the effects of activities such as walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horseback riding, and farming in the presence of nature, on 1,252 people. All types of natural, green environments produced positive healthful results, and those environments that contained water showed even higher advantages.

The researchers intend to use the results to increase people’s overall access to nature and use it as a form of self-medication.

Whether it’s the sunshine, the fresh-air, or the vibrant, growing life that surrounds the outdoors, there’s just something about spending time in nature that can naturally enhance your mood.

Outdoor activities are also a great way to get the entire family to leave the digital world and spend some quality time in each other’s company. Researchers at the Annenberg Center of the University of Southern California found that an increasing number of people declare that Internet usage is decreasing the time they spend with their family. A 2009 report showed that nearly 28% of people polled say they are spending less time with their family, a statistic that tripled since 2006.

In honor of National Family Month, use May to start planning outdoor activities that draw the whole family back together in a healthy manner. Consider taking a family bike ride, or going for an after dinner walk at least two times per week. Plant a garden, allowing each family member to choose one item they’d like to grow. Or plan a picnic at a local park or playground. Try new activities, like a moonlight walk or Frisbee golf. Consider making it a monthly or weekly routine.

Going outside is fun and uplifting. And spending those moments with your family can be even more worthwhile.