Did you know that going outdoors and spending just 15 minutes in the sun every day can have incredible benefits on a person’s mood and mental health?

Those of us seeking to improve our mental wellbeing know the importance of exercise in that process. Less well known are the benefits of going outdoors and spending time outside in the sun.

In this article, we will explore some of the ways that spending as little as 15 minutes outside every day can help to improve your mind’s health and some of the ways that you can accomplish this.

We will also touch on Attention Restoration Theory and its relationship to our mental wellbeing.

First, though we will examine the effects of natural sunlight on the mind.

Simply being out in the sun can provide a natural influx of vitamin D, and contributes to a better night’s sleep. Additionally, natural light tends to raise a person’s mood. Thus, going outdoors can help to make you more cheerful, especially when paired with physical activity.

In fact, a 2010 study by the University of Essex showed that even 5 minutes of exercise in nature can improve self-esteem and mood. In addition to mood, natural light can also help with sleep. The Saint Louis University School of Medicine released a study showing that the sun’s light helps to keep our body’s internal clock running properly.

This means better sleep, and therefore, an improved mood and mental state. Just 15 minutes of natural light a day can not only help you sleep better, but also decrease your anxiety.

For those of us living in an urban environment, getting out into nature can help relieve cognitive fatigue. This condition is the result of sensory overload from all the things going on around us in a city. By spending time in a garden, or a park, our brains can take a break from this overload.

A study out of Scandinavia has shown that having an office with a view of nature can lower stress in comparison to offices with a city view.

Another mental facet that is helped by going outdoors is concentration. There are many stimuli in urban life – cars, people, and construction, to name just a few. Getting away from all the stimuli of cities can free up your mind, allowing you to be more focused on the task at hand.

This is especially helpful for people with attention deficit disorders, or those combating dementia or Alzheimer’s. By going outdoors, or even just into natural light, you can improve your focus. As a result, you can become more productive, simply by spending time outside in the sun.

Attention Restoration Theory (ART) links some of these concepts together.

The basic premise of ART holds that there is an excessive number of stimuli in an urban environment – think the noise of a crowd or a passing siren. These stimuli grab our attention, even if we are not consciously directing our attention towards them.

As a result, our brain’s ability to focus on a specific task is limited and results in “directed attention fatigue.” In a natural setting, however, we are required to focus on the stimuli, but receive feelings of pleasure in return. We experience reduced mental fatigue and an improvement in concentration.

Thus, according to ART, simply spending time around nature will aid with concentration as well as mental wellbeing.

These benefits can be enjoyed by means of a long walk, a bike ride, or by playing an outdoor sport. Indeed, it’s great motivation for taking up a new hobby, such as hiking or playing golf. But it is also possible for those who are less physically able to reap some of these rewards.

By simply sitting out on a balcony or deck you can have direct access to sunlight. Working under a skylight can provide you with natural light as well, which can elevate your mood. There are thus many ways in which everybody can feel the benefits of going outdoors.

health benefits of the outdoors

It is easy to see why you may want to spend more time outside from now on.

The sun’s natural light can help you to sleep better at night, while also helping to combat anxiety. By being in a natural setting, you can improve your concentration, and as a result, be more productive.

These concepts are tied together by the concept of Attention Restorative Theory. In addition, there are plenty of ways to enjoy these benefits.


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