Come On, Get Happy: How getting outside improves your mental health

(This guest post is authored by Melissa Daruna of Get Outdoors Colorado)

It has been a popular fact for years – getting outside improves your health! While there are a variety of reasons that the outdoors can improve your physical health, another critical benefit is the positive impact the outdoors can have on your mental health. The brain is the only organ that continues to substantially mature after birth. Nature can have a profound positive impact on that development.
Here are three amazing benefits the great outdoors gives your noggin:
1.     Easiest Vitamin D Intake – You know that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when the sun hits your face on a cool morning? Studies show it is much more than a good feeling. Sunlight on the skin triggers the creation of Vitamin D in the body. Responsible exposure for 10-15 minutes can help the body get all of the good stuff it needs.  Physical benefits of Vitamin D range from protection against osteoporosis, heart attack, stroke and even cancer.  Vitamin D also helps protect against depression and activates the genes that release dopamine and serotonin.
2.     Lower Stress and Increased Focus – Have you ever seen a stressed out tree? Of course not; nature is the antithesis of stress – and you can be too! The great news is that research from the journal Environmental Science & Technology shows it only takes five minutes to lower stress and improve self-esteem and overall mood.  This is especially effective when coupled with vigorous activity or being near water. Nature can help children increase focus and even reduce symptoms of ADD. Time spent outside also helps adults focus and increases work productivity.
3.     Nature Makes You Nicer!  With a boosted mood, people who are exposed to the outdoors and nature are actually nicer. Nature increases social feelings and a sense of value for community.  People who spend time outside build close relationships and even care more about others.

 So come on, get outside and get happy!