For many people, the journey to better mental health begins after a battle with anxiety, PTSD, stress, or substance abuse, and it can be a long and difficult road. No matter how much we may want to feel better, it’s not always easy to make big lifestyle changes. Your schedule, anxiety level, depression, or family commitments may not allow you to do what you truly want to do, which can lead to guilt or other negative emotions, and continue a vicious cycle against your mental health.

Fortunately, there are several easy ways you can help boost your mood and feel good, and if you enjoy spending time outdoors, you can get the maximum benefit while enjoying yourself at the same time. Learning how best to integrate things you love – such as your dog or a favorite hobby – will also help you feel your best.

Here are a few tips on how spending time outdoors can help boost your mental health.

Reduce stress

Getting outside can help boost your mood, especially if you’re spending time getting vitamin D from the sun, and it can also help reduce stress. If you work in an office environment or from home and spend much of your time looking at the same surroundings, getting out into nature will allow you to take a few deep breaths, put your busy schedule behind you, and enjoy the beauty of your outdoor surroundings.

Get some exercise

Spending time outdoors is a wonderful way to get in some exercise that doesn’t involve a gym membership or time on a treadmill. Hiking a trail, playing a sport, or simply taking your dog for a long walk through the park can help you stay in shape, which in turn can help you feel more confident.

Spend time with your pet

If you have a dog, he’ll appreciate any time you can spend with him outside. Pups love running around in the fresh air no matter what time of year it is, and you’ll get the benefit of some relaxing playtime as well. In fact, spending time with animals is one of the best ways to lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety, so if you don’t already own a pet, consider getting one, especially if you are living sober after a battle with substance abuse.

Make social connections

Playing a team sport, joining a club, or simply asking a friend to join you on a brisk walk will help you stay social and active at the same time. Forming emotional bonds is one of the best ways you can boost your mental health, especially if the bond is with someone you trust and can easily talk to. Consider forming a workout group, or join up with some friends for a weekly trip to the dog park.

Improve your memory

Studies have shown that people who get outside into nature have improved short-term memory function, which is a huge benefit for seniors and people who are living with certain brain-altering diseases. Being outside can also renew your mental energy, giving you a nice boost after a long week of staring at the computer at work.

Boosting your mental health can mean many things, and depending on your lifestyle and abilities, there may be several ways you can help yourself simply by heading outdoors for a little while. Think about the best activities to try where you live and ask a friend to come along with you. With a little planning and an open mind, you’ll have yourself feeling better in no time.

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