I often tell patients to spend some time outdoors, even if it’s just a walk around the block, to boost mental (and physical) health. No surprises here but the experts have spoken - getting 120 minutes of nature per week is all you need. More time than that is fine, but it doesn’t significantly increase the health benefits of getting outside, per Scientific Reports. It’s a bit of a chicken/egg situation, where it’s not clear if folks going outside increases their desire for physical activity, which has its own benefits of improving mood. Or if folks already feel happy and healthy just naturally spend more time outside.
This may seem like a no-brainer for a Californian, but putting these tips into practice can often be challenging when there are competing demands on your time. In the age of screens and nonstop news headlines, being in nature may also provide a space to be away from the constant pings of social media, presidential tweets, and the frantic pull for productivity. For many of my patients, I talk a lot about “going back to the basics” as a first step to tackling mental health challenges - staying hydrated, healthy eating, and prioritizing getting enough sleep. I will likely add to that list, go outside…for 2 hours.