Outdoor Activities That Keep Your Mind Sharp
We are all a bit lazy sometimes when having to take care of our mental health. Spending some quality “me time” when you finally get a break from the daily grind usually boils down to mindlessly binge-watching your favorite show while chained down to your living room couch. After a while it becomes normal spending free time sealed inside the “comfort” of your house, forgetting about the fact that Mother Nature’s outdoor activities might just be the perfect antidote to blue mood and boredom.
People who more often enjoy outdoor activities are happy people, who rarely give in to feelings of agitation, anxiety and chronic stress. How? Well, just by merely choosing to be outside, which is enough to put you in the state of positive and motivated mindset. Science (and everyday people’s experience) has shown that exposure to natural sunlight and fresh air on a daily basis can do wonders for mood elevation and overall mental wellness.
When your body is strolling through a forest or a meadow, tension and anxiety fall away. If you’ve had a tough week at work or with the kids, outdoor activities can let your mind normalize and de-clutter. Hiking, climbing or running along outdoor trails can make your body feel revitalized. Once you’ve discovered how much you are benefiting from getting outdoors, you’ll make it a regular habit, a personal therapy for all the tension and stress accumulated during a busy day.
THE JOYS OF RUNNING
Recreationally jogging or preparing for a marathon, you will definitely feel the amazing benefits of running. It’s probably the most undemanding exercise (apart from walking) of all outdoor activities, not requiring any specific skills or athletic requirements – it’s in your nature.
Research has shown that moderate-intensity physical activity, like jogging, is highly beneficial, since it helps in releasing chemicals like endorphin, the mood-boosting hormone, without being too intense and demanding for the body and the mind, especially for beginners or non-sporty types. Low – intensity exercise sustained over time holds the true value to achieving mental benefits, since it spurs the release of proteins called growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections.
Jogging brings other joys that come on the side, like meeting other joggers and running enthusiasts. Although it’s essentially an individual activity, it never gets dull when you involve other people into your running regimen. You can always find a running buddy, or meet new people along the way, get to know your neighborhood a bit better. When was the last time you met someone in the street, just making plain small talk between two people? You’ll be amazed how making contacts, even if just superficial like talking to a neighbor, can put a smile on your face for the day.
If you consider taking up jogging, there are ways to get started safely and comfortably. The running community is very big and there are various sites and forums helping runners become better and more skilled at what they do, offer support and encouragement and share their experiences and struggles.
THE MOTHER OF ALL OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES – HIKING
The easiest and most affordable out of all outdoor activities is taking a route through the forest or any other place available. Simply pack your bag, put on some hiking shoes, and you are good to go. It’ really plain and simple, just put one leg in front of the other. Due to that simplicity, what you get to experience is the medicine to your senses and soul, a deep, meditative-like relaxation that only nature and fresh air can trigger.
Once you start exploring a little bit and get to know the area, hiking can become an amusing activity which could turn an ordinary day out into a special sightseeing adventure (with a great cardio workout on the side). Hikers often explore in group gatherings, it’s a hobby that can really involve an entire community. The sense of communal belonging is great for boosting self-confidence and creating a sense of group responsibility and devotion to a mutual cause.
Hiking is powerful since it can be done literally anywhere. When you get the hang of it, each trip to an unknown area can be made into a fun session of hiking. There’s always something new to explore and destinations to reach.
GREEN THERAPY – GARDENING AND MENTAL HEALTH
When we think of outdoor activities, we usually imagine sports or exercising in nature. Maybe you haven’t thought of it yet, but gardening is a fantastic activity with therapeutic properties and a calming effect to your mind. Even people who aren’t gardeners are able to reap the benefits of being outside, working with nature and all the things that come with it.
There is something innate about working with plants. The gentleness and patience involved are just so relaxing and healing to the brain. Taking care of another living thing, whilst at the same time nourishing beauty and esthetics is a creative and fun way to spend your time.
Experts around the world recommend gardening as a way of fighting depression and anxiety. Some people might mock the idea of recommending a gardening group or exercise class to patients, but learning new skills, meeting people and being active can have a really positive impact on a patient’s physical and emotional health and wellbeing.
Another advantage to gardening is that after the amazing work and effort invested into it, you get to enjoy the results in the form of a natural masterpiece that you’ve created, with your own hands. Having green fingers does not only have to be fertile to your backyard. There are always areas that need some retouching and could become a communal gardening project for the neighborhood to create a beautiful living space for everyone.
Involving your kids can also be extremely beneficial for their social conduct and mood regulation. Children’s gardening programs ignite a passion for good food, provide opportunities for people of all ages to work together, and develop important life skills that can lead to a lifetime of healthful choices. Food produced may be used in a home or school settings, canned for use in the offseason, and excess donated to local food banks.
Sofia Alves is an avid runner, conveyor of messages, sunshine addict. Guided by the belief that health is a choice, she recently started sharing her knowledge as a contributing writer at Jogging Addiction. In her free time, you can usually find her sharing stories with friends over a glass of dry wine and a plate of her favorite pesto spaghetti.