Mental health is a growing concern for many people in our country. More and more people are being diagnosed with different mental health issues due to raised awareness and a slowly lessening of the stigma around suffering from mental illness. The unfortunate thing is that most health cares do not give the proper amount of support for mental health and so many people are having to try and turn to other forms of treatment. While these normally aren’t seen as a replacement for legitimate medical treatment, it is the best that many can do. According to a 2010 study, there may be some basis for using nature as a kind of treatment.

A series of ten studies were done over in the United Kingdom measuring increases in mental health and self-esteem after various activities were performed outside. These included walking, horseback riding, gardening, and other types of exercise. It was found that being outside did improve the mood and mental state of many people. The issue with this study is the fact that there is no fully accurate way to quantify the change that may have occurred among people as each subject may quantify the change in different ways.

The good thing is that this study showed that even just five minutes outside could improve the mood of someone who may have a mental illness. This continued to show improvements until around a half day was spent outside, after which any time made no discernable difference. This was shown across all levels of physical activity. The “moderate” level of activity, however, showed the least amount of improvement. It was also found that exercising near water gave a slight improvement over other locations. It was noted that men seemed to have a bigger change in self-esteem after time spent outside than women did.

While this has shown that getting fresh air and exercise may help someone’s mental health, it is not meant to be a replacement for legitimate medical help. If someone you know, or even you yourself, have mental health issues, please do seek professional help. If, however, you want to supplement your treatment with time spent outdoors, it seems like that certainly won’t hurt. Get outside and enjoy the beautiful Gaston County fresh air. It can only help.