Mental Health: One Simple Way to Improve

Mental Health America declared May Mental Health Month

They wanted theme this year to be Fitness (#4Mind4Body). This is because increasing data and personal experiences have connected exercise and nutrition to overall mental health. 

365 Mile Challenge

I made the connection early on that when I got outside, my mental health improved. And when my family got outside more often we were all happier.

In 2017, my friend Kathy Dalton (Go Adventure Mom Founder) decided to create the 356 Mile Challenge to encourage people to get outdoors – a mile a day. The response was incredible. The program was simple, no gym membership was needed. The motivation and inspiration came from women around the world who connected and supported one another through social media.

Kathy said “We wanted women to connect with themselves, to connect with friends, and to connect with nature. When we set small and simple daily goals, big things can happen.”

Being Outdoors is Good for our Mental Health

Researchers at Stanford University learned people who walk in nature experienced less depression, anxiety, rumination, and more happiness.

Author John Muir said “Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

Nature Reduces Stress Levels

Many of us feel moments of mind fatigue and stress from work demands, children’s schedules, social encounters, and the dozens of balls we juggle.

However, constant brain fatigue and stress can affect our behavior, relationships and health. The Mayo Clinic says that recognizing the symptoms can help us manage fatigue and stress. 

David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, has studied nature’s calming effect on human stress levels. National Geographic reported him saying that, “Our brains aren’t tireless three-pound machines; they’re easily fatigued. When we slow down, stop the busy work, and take in beautiful natural surroundings, not only do we feel restored, but our mental performance improves too.”

A study from Scotland says you can ease brain fatigue by going outside and smelling the flowers.

The study concluded people who live near green parks and trees have lower levels of cortisol (stress hormone). In addition, they observed children’s brains performed at higher levels after walking through the park or an arboretum.

Being in Nature Improves Physical Health

Last year the University of Derby and the Wildlife Trusts launched a 30-day nature challenge to citizen of the United Kingdom. The researchers said, “Our findings suggest that connection to nature may provide people with resilience to meet the challenges of everyday life, while also facilitating exercise, social contact and a sense of purpose.”

In honor of mental health month, let’s hit the trails.

Whether it’s a fitness goal or a mental well-being goal, getting into nature is scientifically proven to boost energy, lower stress levels, and improve mental well-being. If you’re not sure whether you can get out everyday for one mile, try it for a week.

NYTimes Blog: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/27/easing-brain-fatigue-with-a-walk-in-the-park/?_php=true&_type=blogs&ref=health&_r=0

Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987

Huffington Post: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5-benefits-of-being-outdoors_us_5938266ce4b014ae8c69dce0#

Mental Health America: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/4mind4body-challenge


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Mary Edwards
I live with my twin girls and husband at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Salt Lake City, Utah. In the summer I like to run, hike, and camp. In the winter I like to snow shoe, cross country ski and cozy up to a stack of novels. My family delights me with their love, humor, and desire to go on outdoor adventures with me from catching butterflies to dipping toes in rivers, to making s'mores up the canyon. I earned a Master of Professional Communication at Westminster College and was marketing manager for the Utah Symphony & Opera Deer Valley Music Festival and Program Director at Brighton Girls Camp. Both opportunities fueled my love for the outdoors.

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