By Lauren Moore, LCSWA
In North Carolina, we are already up to 80-degree weeks here in June. School is starting to let out, and it is almost officially summertime! Now more than ever, you may hear a therapist (and parent) often say “go outside!” to improve your day. Before you brush off the suggestion, consider the fact that there are many awesome benefits to getting outside and taking in the sights, smells, sounds, and textures around you. Even if you only have a short break in your day, it is strongly encouraged to spend some time outdoors and experience the following benefits.
As we approach summer, the sun is out shining most hours of the day, and it’s great to take a quick 15-minute trip outside if you can (don’t forget the sunscreen)! The sun is a source of Vitamin D, which is important for your body’s functioning. Sunshine also has been shown to boost your mood by increasing serotonin levels.
Do you find the sound of oceans, rivers, or rain calming? As many know, staying hydrated is a priority for your health. However, there also benefits to sitting by water and hearing it flow in whatever shape, body or form you are experiencing it. Studies have found that the sound of water reduces cortisol levels in your body by reducing stress! If you don’t have access to a natural body of water, try taking a dip in the pool and swimming for some exercise to also reduce stress.
Last but not least, greenery has been found to boost mood, reduce stress, improve sleep and promote positive social interactions. The fresh air with less pollutants, reduced city noise, and occasional wildlife all contribute to helping both mental and physical health. Outside is a great place to spend time with some friends and family and to get exercise in your day. Additionally, if you are local to the Charlotte area, check out the following places for a walk or hike outdoors:
1. Crowders Mountain
2. Charlotte Rail Trail
3. Little Sugar Creek Greenway
4. Freedom Park
5. Four Mile Creek Greenway
If you would like to find more information on the benefits of nature, the National Alliance on Mental Health in California composed a list of articles and research that show how important getting outside is for your mental health. Feel free to check out that resource here.