California is slowly opening to the public and now with the weather heating up; it is time to enjoy the summer. It is time to stretch our legs and leave the heavyweight of the last year behind us. While we are transitioning into a post-pandemic life it is important to take some time to go outdoors.
Psychologists have found that going for a 10-minute walk has the same effects of easing anxiety as a 45-minute workout, due to walking’s ability to lower stress which is a common contributing factor for anxiety. Walking has been known to quiet the amygdala which is the primitive part of the brain that deals with anxiety. There are so many mental and physical health benefits from just taking a walk outside. Walking has been known to improve sleep, help with stress and anxiety, and clear up mental fatigue. When walking outside, you can include getting vitamin D from the sun which is essential for heart, bone, dental, nerve, immune, and muscular health.
While we are constantly reminded to wear sunscreen and be mindful of the dangers of too much sun, we tend to forget the benefits. When we are exposed to the sun, our skin can produce vitamin D. This is essential for bone and immune health. Research shows that people who have lower levels of vitamin D are at a higher risk of a plethora of diseases such as higher blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and depression. Recent studies show that people who have depression tend to have lower levels of vitamin D. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is defined as “a type of depression that causes negative changes in mood linked to a change in the seasons, principally occurring in the winter months.” Sunlight plays a crucial role in SAD, people who are not exposed to the sun and lack sufficient vitamin D tend to be affected. Vitamin D deficiency negatively impacts serotonin regulation, which is the hormone that stabilizes our mood and helps with sleeping and digestion. If you need some vitamin D, researchers suggest going out around midday for 10-30 minutes when the sun is at its highest point. Remember to also take measures for safe sun exposure by wearing sunscreen.
Exposure to sunlight can halt or slow the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps with sleep. An absence of natural light can increase the creation of melatonin, that is why you might feel sleepy if you have been inside all day. Going outside and getting natural light can help regulate or stop melatonin production and help you stay awake and alert. This can also help regulate your sleeping habits and allow you to get better sleep.
“Nature is fuel for the soul,” said Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. “Often when we feel depleted, we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.” After being cooped up in our homes for so long, it is crucial for our mental and physical health to go outside and enjoy ourselves. While it might be daunting for some to transition back into society, here are some tips for spending time in nature.
Try to go for a morning walk or morning mediation. If you are a coffee person, have that cup outdoors.
Have a picnic, invite some friends and family, and enjoy a meal outside.
If you are stuck with work, try moving your work outside. Maybe take your laptop outside and finish off some emails out in the sun. If you cannot move your work outside, try moving your desk to face a window.
Walk with a friend, schedule a time to go out together, and get some social time along with exercise.
Maybe you want to escape the heat and take a dip in a pool or go to the beach. Try planning it in advance to give you something to look forward to.
There are many benefits to going outside, but sometimes that is not enough. If you or someone you love feel like they need some extra help, please feel free to reach out. We are more than happy to assist.
If you are experiencing symptoms of mental or physical distress and would like to discuss your treatment options, schedule an appointment with one of our providers today by using our online form or by calling (805) 341-3416 during normal business hours.