Mental Health Doesn't Have to Be Complicated. Getting Outdoors Can Make a Difference

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Mentalhealth sometimes seems like a complicated code to crack with past problems touncover and patterns of behavior to change. And really … what does therapy evendo? The good news is there are many simple things that you can do to improveyour mental health without getting into complex theories and treatment plans.

One amazing thing we have access to year-round here in South Florida is the beautiful outdoors. Many recent studies have shown getting outside on a regular basis can reduce stress, increase self-esteem, and improve mood. Some studies have shown improvement in cortisol levels which is linked to stress and unwanted weight gain. Other studies showed decreased symptoms in individuals with major depressive disorder, see the articles below for more of the science behind these claims.

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This may explain why some individuals suffer from seasonal affective disorder, a diagnosis that specifically addresses the mood depressive affects of winter. It is statistically more common in places where the ratio of light to dark is greatly decreased in the winter, and the weather makes it very difficult to get outdoors.

Addingoutdoor time might sound like just another item to add to your to-do list, butthere are simple ways to integrate it into your regular routine.

Try one of the many fun outdoor fitness options from STAY FIT 305’s Monthly Sweat Guides instead of your normal indoor fitness routine. When you meet a friend for brunch or dinner, ask for outdoor seating somewhere with a nice view (there’s no shortage of options in South Florida), or have your morning coffee on your patio or balcony. Make an important meeting a “walking” meeting in an outdoor space, like one of the many local parks in Miami.

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If youare feeling a little more adventurous, try one of these beautiful outdoorspaces in Miami-Dade; the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, Oleta State Park,Virginia Key Outdoor Center, Amelia Earhart Park, or the Fairchild TropicalBotanic Garden. Feeling pressed for time? Consider taking on a few plants onyour patio, they will force you to come out to water them a few times per week.If you rent or own in a condominium community, put that HOA fee to work byutilizing the pool area or tennis courts available.

Mentalhealth does not have to be complicated to work, so consider adding a few moreoutdoor activities to your routine and see if notice any improvements that,pardon the pun, come naturally.

Sarah Russ, LCSW is a mental health professional in Miami focused on practical, actionable therapeutic strategies for mental well-being in a world of overstimulation and misconceptions about what constitutes true self-care. Sarah received her Master of Social Work from NYU and has been working in mental health for seven years. She specializes in healthy coping strategies and crisis management for those with chronic illnesses, substance use, and anxiety. You can follow her @mentalhealthformillenials or schedule a session with her at Arvon & Associates in Aventura, Doral, or Virtually by calling 305-936-8000.

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