Sometimes the answer to a problem can be right in front of us or right outside our window. While the world of mental health can be overwhelming and the advice often confusing, we do know quite a lot about the things that help us feel healthy and well. In fact, research shows that making certain lifestyle choices can improve and maintain mental well-being. We know through this research that people who connect with their community, develop their passions, attend to their relationships, have fun, eat healthy, and move their bodies often feel better than those who do not.

 

There is also a large body of evidence that points to the healing qualities of nature in the promotion of both mental and physical health. Studies have noted that participants who spend time in nature have lower blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, as compared to participants in an urban setting. Spending time in nature can lead to improved cognitive functioning, increased attention, and enhanced sense of well-being. These benefits are seen in both youth and adults. In children, specifically, the ability to pay attention and regulate their bodies improve when they are able to engage in play in outdoor settings.

 

Getting into the natural light and leaving behind the distractions of modern living including computer screens and cellphones are important aspects of spending time in nature. Being outside can offer the gift of silence and an opportunity to slow down. Spending time in nature does not have to mean scheduling a backpacking trip to Colorado or a trek through the Canadian wilderness. It can be as simple as taking a walk around your home or neighborhood, going fishing, or even starting a small garden.

 

Here are some other ways you can discover the tremendous opportunities available right in your backyard:

  • Canoe the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.
  • Bike the Gandy Dancer state trail.
  • Kayak or boat on any of the 500 lakes and 14 rivers in Burnett County.
  • Walk through thousands of acres within the Governor Knowles State Forest.
  • Enjoy bird watching at the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area.

 

Incorporating time outdoors to your daily routine is easier said than done. To help make it easier, start off slow and make it a goal to do one of the following items in the next month.  

  • Try a new form of outdoor exercise, for example, try outdoor yoga.
  • Exercise outdoors 5 days in a row.
  • Enjoy a new trail in Burnett County.
  • Increase the amount of time you exercise outdoors.
  • Spend some reflective time outdoors to improve your mental health.
  • Hike or paddle in our local national park, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

 

For more information about the research supporting the benefits of nature and other therapeutic lifestyle choices on our mental health visit www.nwpltd.org/passageway.

 

Submitted by: Angela Fredrickson, LCSW, Northwest Passage Clinical Director

“Healthy Minute” is brought to you by healthyburnett.org