How Spending Time Outdoors Can Improve Your Mental Health


No matter how hot or cold it might be, getting time outdoors is key for not only physical health, but mental health.

Stefan Chmelik, and integrated healthcare physician, mindfulness mentor and breathworker breaks down for us exactly why and how spending time outdoors can improve your mental health.


“The benefits of spending time in nature are now beyond doubt and proven across every aspect of research but also by direct human experience. Many other people as well as myself believe that one of the biggest factors in the global mental health and stress epidemic is directly due to the fractured relationship between human beings and the natural world. We are hard wired over hundreds of thousands of years to love nature and to feel calm and at ease in nature. And we care for that which we love so it is only by rekindling this broken relationship with nature that we can return to supporting the planet that we live on, which in turn will love and heal us back. Being in nature throughout the year, experiencing all the elements and changing seasons, the moon, night and day, heat and cold, this variation enables us to develop resilience to stress and all round anti-fragility against whatever life throws at us.”


“Walking is accepted as being the best all around exercise for anyone of any age that’s able to walk at least a few steps. It seems that we evolved to walk and that standing upright on two legs made us human, maybe more able to spot food further away, encouraging cooperation between groups of people and creating complex language and society. When we walk in nature at different times of the year in different weather conditions we encourage not just physical flexibility but also mental flexibility increasing neuro-plasticity that staves off dementia as our balance needs to adapt to different terrain and walking conditions. Walking up and down hills is one of the best exercises we can do for the cardiovascular system, for our circulation, for metabolism, and the benefits of being exposed to the elements, the different seasons, and different weather conditions of cold and wind increase not only stamina but our innate flexibility and anti-fragility.”


“Neuroscientists increasingly agree that daily moments of awe are important for neuro flexibility, mental health, and for neuro-plasticity. The single most effective way to experience daily awe is in nature, small daily awe experiences can be achieved walking through a forest, hearing birds, seeing new buds push through the earth, and feeling the wind on your face, and these are as important or as big as experiences like getting to the top of a mountain.”

Image: Oleg Breslavtsev for Getty


“Human beings also have an affinity for water and we refer to green ecotherapy with nature and trees and blue ecotherapy with people who live near or regularly visit the sea, rivers, or estuaries. These environments and exposure to them are strongly associated with positive well-being and mental health. Being by moving water exposes us to negative ions in the air which have strongly powerful and beneficial qualities. Swimming in natural water is an excellent form of all round exercise and in particular, many people now benefit from cold water exposure or wild swimming which has been shown to have positive benefits for anti-aging and general well-being.”


“Human beings and plants, particularly trees, have a strong symbiotic relationship going back millions of years. We now know that trees communicate with each other via mycelial connections underground that’s been termed the wood wide web and we know that being amongst plants and trees has a powerful regenerative effect on human beings, something the Japanese have enshrined in the idea of forest bathing retreats.”


“Being exposed to the earth itself is a powerful force for good. Probiotics are being touted by many as the future of psychiatry as healthy bacterial elements have a direct influence on the mood-altering microbiota of the gut, and many of the most powerful of these microbes are found on the earth. So we see positive effects in gardeners and people who spend time outside with their hands in the soil.”


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