Research has shown us the effects our environment has on us both positive and negative. Who and what we surround ourselves with is going to have an effect on our mental health, there is no questioning it. Obviously, the people we surround ourselves with are crucial, but so is our environmental setting. Are we surrounded by walls 24 hours a day or are we able to go outside and breathe in the fresh air?
Our brains need to be outdoors. Our brains need nature.
Being outside in nature has been known to have a calming effect on the mind. Simply sitting outside enjoying a beautiful sunset will create a feeling of peace and serenity. Think back to a particular time when you were outdoors and were taken aback by the beauty. What did you feel in that moment?
A particular time for me that stands out in my mind was when I was in Ireland. I was standing on top of a cliff overlooking a large body of water. It was honestly the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. In that moment, I felt completely at peace. Everything else in my mind had faded and all I could think about was what was in front of me.
Obviously I can’t experience that view each and every day, but I can experience beautiful Nebraska sunsets, gorgeous lake water rippling on the lake shore, or the smell of freshly cut grass. You can experience this calming and peaceful feeling too! It is important we make a conscious effort to step outside and smell the fresh air.
Along with a calming feeling, nature can also improve sleep. Sleep is something that is crucial to our mental health. It is important we have good quality sleep, not too much and not too little. Research shows being in nature can improve our sleep patterns. When our body is exposed to natural light it helps regulate our natural body clock which will normalize our sleep schedule.
Getting outdoors can also increase social connectedness. More than likely if you are outside, you are disconnected from phones, TVs, etc. If you are disconnected from these items, you are going to be more likely to connect with the individuals around you. Not only can you connect with these individuals, but there are many activities you can do outdoors with others.
It is evident nature has positive effects on our mental health. If you are able, step outside and breathe in the fresh air. Take a walk outside, go on a run, play a game with friends or family, or do whatever makes you happy. Appreciate the beauty which is all around you. I promise you won’t regret it!
Katie Zimmerman, Project Coordinator for The Kim Foundation
Katie Zimmerman joined The Kim Foundation in June 2019. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and Sociology from Central College in Pella, Iowa. During her time in college, she volunteered at many non-profits organizations and took multiple sociology classes which focused on mental health. Katie’s role at The Kim Foundation includes running the social media accounts, assisting in the Youth Advisory Council, and providing mental health awareness and education to the community through A Voice for Hope and Healing presentations.