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May is Mental Health Month- Part 4


Mental Health Month 2023 – Nature & Outdoors


May is mental health month and Mental Health America’s (MHA) focus this year is “look around and look within” for ways to improve and boost your mental health. “Look Around” focuses on several factors one of which is nature and outdoors. This article will focus on how nature and the outdoors can boost our mental health.


Time Outdoors

Much research has been done on the connection between mental health and nature. Being outdoors in nature is linked to better mood, improved focus, lower stress, and can help reduce the risk of developing some mental health issues. That is why it is one of the areas of focus for this year’s mental health month.

Cities tend to have more physical and mental health stressors which is why green space is essential. Lowell is ideal since we have a good amount of green space in terms of parks, woods, and lakes. Even if you have mobility issues you can take advantage of the mental health boost you get from nature right in your own back yard.

Research shows that children living in neighborhoods with more green space have a reduced risk of developing mood disorders, depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse issues. Studies also show that even indoor plants can provide mental health benefits such as improve memory, focus, and better stress tolerance. A nice bonus is that some plants can help keep indoor air clean.

Natural Light

Living in Michigan we know that we can go days or sometimes weeks without seeing sunlight. This can affect mood even if you don’t have Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). Those suffering from SAD have feelings of depression due to several factors. One is believed to be a decrease in serotonin from the lack of sunlight. Serotonin is a brain chemical that affects mood. A lack of sunlight can also disrupt the body's internal clock. These two factors can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. As little as 10-15 minutes of sunlight a day can help the body produce Vitamin D and Serotonin which can improve focus, mood, and even help reduce stress. For those with sleep issues/insomnia bright light or sunlight can also help regulate the sleep-wake cycle and we know sleep is one of the most important factors of wellness. If you have SAD or symptoms due to a lack of sunlight you can get a light specifically made to simulate sunlight to help ease symptoms.

Benefits of Connecting with Nature

According to MHA, connecting with nature benefits social skills and personal growth, boosts self-esteem, and helps emotional regulation. When kids connect with nature, they also get a boost to their creativity and independence. Having lakes, parks, gardens, woods and other natural spaces is also associated with an increased sense of community belonging.

Ways to Connect with Nature

Lowell is an ideal area for connecting with nature. Below are some easy ways for you to increase your time outdoors in nature.

· This summer try one of the outdoor classes/groups like Yoga, Tai Chi, or the Walking Group on the Riverwalk. Check out the Lowell Community Wellness website or social media page for more info.

· Attend the Thursday night Showboat Concert along the river.

· Plant a garden. No space for a garden? Consider joining a gardening club like the Showboat Gardening Club which helps beautify our city.

· Go hiking on one of the many trails. Not sure where they are? Stop in to the North Country Trail headquarters downtown and get a trail map.

· Go sit in one of the many parks or public beach areas and just watch nature.

· If you have a porch sit out on your porch and people watch. You can also sit out on a back deck or patio and look at the nature all around you in your own back yard.

Want more ideas?? You can also download MHA’s 2023 May is Mental Health Month Toolkit at https://mhanational.org/may.

Positive improvements in any of the areas of focus for this year’s mental health month can help improve your mental health and overall wellness. There are many positive changes you can make on your own. However, if you are still struggling, you become stuck, or the changes are not working it may be time to get help from a professional mental health counselor. I hope you find this information helpful but it is for informational purposes only. Stay healthy!


Reference: Mental Health American https://mhanational.org/may


Melissa Spino MA LPC CDMS

Life Transitions Therapy LLC Founder and Therapist


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