How Spending Time Outdoors Improves Mental Health

Spending time in nature is one of the best hobbies you could have. There’s fresh air, fewer distractions and you could even see some cute animals – what’s not to love?

Spending time in nature is one of the best hobbies you could have. There’s fresh air, fewer distractions and you could even see some cute animals – what’s not to love?

But these aren’t the only upsides of the outdoors. In this article, we’ll explore how and why spending time outside can have a positive impact on your mental health.

Plus, we’ll give you 3 of our favourite outdoor mental health ideas that may convince you to ditch the TV and head outside.

What Are the Benefits of Being Outside?

As you’ll learn, there are loads of benefits of nature and spending time outside away from screens and other distractions. We’ve highlighted a few that we feel are the most important in terms of mental health below.

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

According to an evidence review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, there is a positive link between spending more time in nature and improved mental health.

This is especially true in terms of reducing stress and anxiety. In fact, studies have shown that spending time outdoors, particularly in green spaces, can have a significant impact on your stress and anxiety levels.

Unfortunately, whilst spending all day on the beach or in a forest sounds amazing, it isn’t always possible. But, here are some easy ways you can feel the benefits of the outdoors.

  • Get off the bus a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way to work.
  • Spend your lunch break outside in a local park.
  • Explore your local greenspaces on the weekend.

Boosts Your Mood

Whether it’s a walk through the woods, a quick dip in the ocean, or even a picnic in the park, there’s something about being outside that is an instant mood booster.

The new sounds, (mostly) nice smells and green surroundings help to stimulate our senses and release any tension you may be carrying. It often feels that spending time in nature connects us on an instinctual level to the world around us.

Internally, there’s a lot going on to boost your mood when you spend time outside. Being outside can encourage the production of serotonin, which makes you happy.

Also, being outside is an incredibly sensory experience, which can encourage you to be more mindful. By anchoring yourself in the present this way, you can improve your overall mood and set yourself up for the rest of the day or week.

Improves Your Sleep

Sleep is incredibly important, but did you know that one of the benefits of being outside is that it can improve your circadian rhythm. This rhythm is your personal wake/sleep schedule, and keeping this regular can help you get to sleep quicker at night.

Spending time outdoors helps your sleep schedule because natural light is better at letting us know when we need to be awake than artificial light.

Sunlight in the morning tells the body to start producing cortisol, a chemical to help you wake up. Exposure to sunlight at the right times also regulates when your body should start producing melatonin, which is what makes you sleepy.

By going outside every day, you’re teaching your body to keep to a regular schedule. This can help you get to sleep faster, and sleep better, at night.

Increases Vitamin D Intake

Vitamin D plays an important role in how your body functions. Not only does it help you absorb calcium from your diet and boost your immune system, but it’s also been shown to improve symptoms of low mood disorders, like depression.

There is a wealth of encouraging research in recent years that suggests vitamin D can help to boost your mood and aid those suffering with depression.

But why is this relevant to spending time in nature? Well, did you know one of the best ways to introduce vitamin D into your body is through direct sunlight?

According to the NHS, from late March to late September, your body can produce the recommended amounts of vitamin D solely from sunlight. It does this by converting UVB light when you’re outside in the sunshine.

That’s why one of the common theories for if you experience depression with a seasonal pattern (commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD) in winter is due in part to a dip in your vitamin D levels.

Remember that if you’re experiencing mental health struggles, you are not alone.

Please contact your GP for personalised advice, or call Samaritans on 116 123. For urgent care, call 999 or go to your nearest A&E department for help.

What Are the Benefits of Outdoor Exercise on Mental Health?

Exercise and mental health have long been linked by a positive relationship. This is because exercise releases endorphins like serotonin and dopamine. These are often called “the happy chemicals” because they’re triggered when we do something pleasurable.

This boost in “happy chemicals” explains why, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, physical exercise can be a valuable treatment option alongside, or instead of, medication for mild depression.

Another benefit of exercise is that it may improve your physical health. This can have a knock-on effect on your mental health as you feel better, fitter and stronger. 

Being fitter can also encourage you to feel more confident about yourself, which helps you navigate your daily life with less stress and anxiety.

Exercising outside can also be an incredibly social mental health activity. Spending time with friends playing sports, or even playground games like Tag/Tig, are a wonderful way to get moving and having fun.

3 Outdoor Activities to Improve Mental Health

If you’re struggling to find the right outdoor mental health activities for you, we’ve included 3 of our favourites below to get you started.


Walking. It sounds so simple, but it’s actually a fantastic way to get outdoors and spend time in nature. 

It’s one of the most accessible mental wellbeing activities because it doesn’t cost money, you don’t need any expensive equipment, and you can get started whenever you want. There’s no base level of fitness either, with most trails having beginner routes to get you started.

In fact, if you’re interested, why not check out our article about UK Walks to Boost Your Mood for some great ideas on where to start?


There’s something endlessly relaxing about finding a good spot and looking at the night sky, uninterrupted by the lights of the big city.

Stargazing is a wonderful outdoor mental health activity that’s open to anyone. Whilst you can do this pretty much anywhere you can see the sky, the best spots are in rural areas where there’s less light pollution to interfere with your view.

For the best stargazing views, pitching up a tent and spending the night will let you take in the sky at your leisure without having to rush back. You could even take in the sunrise the next morning with a warm cup of tea!

Outdoor Sports

Outdoor sports are a great way to maximise the benefits of nature whilst doing something active that you enjoy.

Whether you’re an avid skier, or looking to get on the water in an inflatable kayak, there’s always a way for you to experience the outdoors in a way that suits you.

However, you shouldn’t feel pressured to join something extreme. A game of football in the park with friends is just as valuable – what matters is that you find the right mental wellbeing activities to inspire you and get you moving.

Embrace Nature With Winfields Outdoors

Now you know the benefits of outdoor activities, you’ll probably be looking for the right gear to confidently explore your local area and beyond!

Explore our range of walking and hiking boots to make your next steps as comfortable as possible.

Alternatively, want to get that essential dose of natural light whenever possible? Our broad range of waterproofs for men or women will keep you dry while you make the most of your time outside.

Looking to learn more? For more information on how and where to spend time outdoors, product reviews and camping tips, check out our Winfields Outdoors blog

More articles we think you’ll love… The Best UK Walks To Do This Winter | The Best Hikes And Walks Near Cities | Best Walks In The Peak District

Leave a Reply