Do you ever find yourself gravitating towards the great outdoors in times of stress or anxiety? I know that I do!
Any time my anxiety spikes (which is pretty much all the time in today's world), I find myself itching to get outside in a quiet space for fresh air and a fresh perspective. It always does the trick, but I've honestly never really thought too hard about why that is. I've always just assumed it's either a deeply rooted human instinct to find comfort in the larger world, or maybe I'm just a nature lover and that happens to work for me.
It turns out that we are somewhat universally hardwired to find solace, comfort and peace in nature! Scientific studies have looked at specific areas of the natural world and what their effect may be on humans. Ready to boost your mood with nature?
Here are five ways to brighten your mood with nature:
1) Listen to Bird Song
Birds don't just have beautiful songs - many are beautiful to look at! I photographed this Yellow-Rumped Warbler in Hoquiam, WA.
If you follow me in Instagram, you know this one is my fave! I love the birds. Bird song specifically can be pleasing to the ear and may help reduce feelings of stress. According to Julian Treasure in this BBC News Article, "People find birdsong relaxing and reassuring because over thousands of years they have learnt when the birds sing they are safe, it's when birds stop singing that people need to worry. Birdsong is also nature's alarm clock, with the dawn chorus signalling the start of the day, so it stimulates us cognitively."
When to get the best bird songs? Birds sing their beautiful melodies mostly between the months of May and August, and it is most abundant in the early morning between 4am - 6am, though you can hear birds singing at almost any time of day during the spring and summer. This Dawn Chorus is full of mostly male birds singing for mates and singing to announce their territory to others.
My Suggestion: Take your cup of morning coffee out on the deck for 5 - 15 minutes and take note of how many different bird sounds you hear. It will surprise you once you start counting! When you're done, check in with your mood and see if it has noticeably lifted.
2) Go Forest Bathing
The forests of the Olympia Peninsula are gorgeous and serene - perfect for quiet forest bathing.
Forest bathing is not a literal bath, so don't worry - I'm not asking you to suds up in the woods! Rather, forest bathing is a term for immersing yourself in the forest (or really, any nature setting). Humans are drawn to the natural world and our bodies truly do react positively to these environments - this Kaiser Permanente article cites at least 2 studies that have revealed lowered stress markers in subjects after spending time in nature, including in urban park settings.
My Suggestion: Find a local park or natural space that you can spend 10-20 minutes in every day. When you're there, don't worry about 'doing' anything- simply immerse yourself in the sensations you experience. You know... much like you would when relaxing in a bath.
3) Hang Out by Water
The Pacific Ocean is a meditative place to be!
Do you find the vast expanse of the ocean to be calming? Do you like the gentle flow of a river or the babble of a creek? You are not alone! "Blue Spaces"- or natural areas of water, are restorative to our mental and physical health.
According to this article from The Guardian, water has a psychologically restorative effect and spending time near aquatic environments induces positive mood even more so than green spaces. The article even cites studies that suggest a fountain or other man-created source of water could be stimulating. The ocean is especially helpful for inducing a mindful or meditative state. Actually...the entire article is jam packed with fascinating tidbits on the well being effects of water, please go read it!
My Suggestion: If you're in Grays Harbor, make a point to visit the ocean one weekend with the goal of just observing and enjoying the sound and visuals of the waves. If you're inland, find a local river, creek or lake to visit and see what types of feelings emerge when you're observing this type of environment.
4) Get Out in the Sunlight
The sunrise view from my house is worth getting up for year round.
Oh, that sweet, sweet sunlight. I love it so much, I put a sun in my logo! It turns out that sunlight isn't just valuable for producing Vitamin D and helping to regulate our melatonin levels, but it also boosts our mood! I know for me, my mood and motivation levels for the day are greatly improved on sunny days.
This Healthline article talks about how sunlight can increase serotonin levels, which is a hormone associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. There are also a lot of other medical benefits to sunlight exposure in that article as well. We won't cover them here but if you're interested, give it a read!
My Suggestion: Take a short walk outside in the sun for 15 - 20 minutes every day. Preferably before 10 am or after 4pm, and be sure to wear sunscreen if you're going to have exposed skin or be out for longer. Take notice of how your mood changes while you're out there, or after you head back inside.
5) Do Some Stargazing
The night sky is full of wonder. A full moon is beautiful, but it may obstruct stargazing abilities.
I'm going to be honest, taking a 'star bath' sounds like the most fun bath option out there (aside from bathing with some Bright Day Soaking Salts, of course 😉). Yep, stargazing is taking off as a mindfulness trend, offering a variety of benefits in addition to being a beautiful site to behold. When is the last time you found a dark spot on a clear night and gazed upwards? If it's been awhile, put it on your summer bucket list!
This Rituals article cites multiple studies about the effects of stargazing, including making you kinder, boosting creativity and relieving stress. Wow! I guess that mysterious vastness of twinkly stars really gives us perspective on our lives and encourages us to slow down and think differently.
My Suggestion: On the next clear night, turn off your outdoor lights and step out into your yard. Looking up and quietly observe. Don't look for anything in particular- just take in the expanse of stars and acknowledge your thoughts as they flow through. If it is hard to see the night sky from your house, schedule a night in your summer to travel out to a rural or scenic area and observe the stars.
If you're going on vacation, check out the International Dark-Sky Association's website to see if a designated Dark Sky location is near by. They catalog locations across the globe that have been designated as dark skies, ideal for observing the celestial world above us. Sadly, there are no designated locations in Washington, but there is one in Oregon.
There you have it! Five easy ways to boost your mood with nature this summer! Do you have a different way to brighten your mood with nature? or will you be trying one (or five) of these tips? Share with us in the comments!