How Nature Impacts Mental Health

Sometimes life gets us down. It’s normal. Our daily routines can take over—wake up, brush teeth, go to school, come home, and then do it all over again the next day. We face challenges in life that can make us nervous, anxious and stressed out. These challenges can take a mental toll. And COVID-19 multiplies that toll, making things especially difficult.

After two long years of isolation and stress caused by the pandemic, stuck inside, learning from home and relying on our screens to help us communicate, we emerge to breathe fresh air again! 

And that’s just the secret: fresh air. 

Did you know that nature is one of the best remedies for when we feel down? Whether we feel anxious, sad, stressed, or maybe we don’t know what we feel, getting outside in nature can incredibly affect our mental state. The American Psychological Association says that exposure to nature has many great benefits–it improves our attention spans, decreases stress levels, betters our moods, and even shows increases in traits like empathy and cooperation.

When was the last time you went swimming? What about canoeing, kayaking, boating or simply sitting by the water? Studies show that water induces a meditative state that makes us happy, calm and creative.

Here are some ways you can be intentional about improving your mental health in nature this summer:

Visit a nearby lake, river or creek. Moorelands Camp is located on Kawagama Lake—the perfect place to unwind on the water! But if you don’t have a body of water nearby, try a local swimming pool! Swimming is a great activity for physical and mental health. 

Go for a walk or a hike. Check out some of Toronto’s popular trails for walking, hiking and cycling.

Try a new outdoor hobby. Do you like to skip rope? Bird watch? What about gardening? Try growing seeds from your favourite fruits and vegetables—all you need is water and sunlight! (Tip: fold the seeds inside a damp paper towel. Place the paper towel in an air-tight sandwich bag and check back in a few days. Once you notice the seeds sprouting, plant them in soil and watch them grow!)

Keep a nature diary. A nature diary is a journal where you can keep track of all the exciting animals, plants and critters you find in nature. Check out this video by the Natural History Museum for a nature journal DIY.

So next time you’re outside in nature, stop and take a deep breath. Close your eyes and think about all the awesome, beautiful things in the environment that make us feel good and happy.

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