Spend More Time Outside to Improve Your Mental Health

05 Aug

walking outside in natureA Stroll in Nature Improves Mental Health

We spend less time in natural settings, including parks.

Post published by Constance Scharff Ph.D. on Jul 31, 2015 in Ending Addiction for Good

Before I earned my graduate degrees and changed my career to focus on addiction treatment and recovery, I worked for the Girl Scouts. I absolutely loved my work, especially in my last years with the organization, during which among other things, I oversaw Girl Scout camp. As a girl, I regularly attended camps, begging my parents to let me go several times during the summer. I felt at my best in the forest. So it was no surprise to me that a new study out of Stanford University suggests that time spent in natural settings may improve brain health.

As more and more of us live in cities, we spend less time in natural settings, including parks. Studies also show that people in urban settings without access to green spaces have higher levels of psychological problems than those with access to green spaces. Is there a definitive connection between time spent in green spaces and mental health? The answer is yes. In a series of two studies, Stanford researchers believe there is a connection between time spent in green spaces and a decrease in “morbid rumination,” what is more commonly thought of as brooding over the negative aspects of our lives. While the study pool was small and more studies need to be done, there is no real downside to a walk in the park….

What does this mean for us?

Spend Time in Natural Settings – What can it hurt to take a daily walk in the park or spend time sitting on your back porch looking at the creek (if you’re lucky enough to have that situation)? Take your lunch to a natural setting and spend vacation time at least partially in the outdoors. Doing so will immediately improve your mental health.

Move – Movement is good for us. No doctor in the world says that it’s healthy to sit at home and do nothing. But instead of going to the gym, find a nature trail to hike or bike, golf, or take a stroll in the green belt. Even if you don’t get your heart rate up to aerobic activity levels, you’ll still mentally benefit from the movement.

Think About How You Live and Work – I was supremely unhappy in the place I found myself living for the last five years, an urban area with a lot of green space but with weather so hot and buggy most of the year that I could not regularly enjoy it. I made the decision to leave and put myself in a situation that was better for my physical and emotional health. While moving may not be an option available to everyone, we do have a lot of choices about our lifestyles. Living and working in a place that adds to your health is one choice we can make.

Courses of Interest:

Depression is a 1-hour online CE course by the National Institute of Mental Health. Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness. Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression. This introductory course provides an overview to the various forms of depression, including signs and symptoms, co-existing conditions, causes, gender and age differences, and diagnosis and treatment options. Course #10-72 | 2014 | 14 pages | 10 posttest questions

Animal Assisted Therapy is a 2-hour online CE course by Lois Jean Brady, MA, CCC-SLP, CAS. In Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) the human-animal bond is utilized to help meet therapeutic goals and reach individuals who are otherwise difficult to engage in verbal therapies. AAT is considered an emerging therapy at this time, and more research is needed to determine the effects and confirm the benefits. Nevertheless, there is a growing body of research and case studies that illustrate the considerable therapeutic potential of using animals in therapy. AAT has been associated with improving outcomes in four areas: autism-spectrum symptoms, medical difficulties, behavioral challenges, and emotional well-being. This course is designed to provide therapists, educators, and caregivers with the information and techniques needed to begin using the human-animal bond successfully to meet individual therapeutic goals. This presentation will focus exclusively on Animal Assisted Therapy and will not include information on other similar or related therapy. Course #21-05 | 2015 | 36 pages | 16 posttest questions

Therapeutic Aspects of Running is a 1-hour online CE course by Dana Denissel, MOT. Physical inactivity is among the most critical public health concerns in America today. For healthcare professionals, the creation and implementation of sustainable fitness solutions is a relevant cause. This course will help you become familiar with the physical and psychological rewards involved in the activity of running, identify risks and the most common running injuries – along with their symptoms and most probable causes – and describe strategies that can be used in preventing running injuries and developing a healthy individualized running regimen. Course #10-70 | 2014 | 16 pages | 10 posttest questions

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists; by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA Provider #AAUM); by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (#PCE1625); by the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); by the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); by the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and by the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).

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Posted by on August 5, 2015 in General


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