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Maintain your mental health out in the open air

Growing older presents a number of different challenges: chronic pain, stress, illness, and major life changing events such as retirement and the loss of loved ones. Anxiety or apprehension about life-stage transitions can cause depression and result in additional negative factors such as a feeling of helplessness and even physical ailments.

Recognizing both the causes and effects is an important first step in either preventing a depressed mental state or incurring it – and certainly one of the very best ways to help in alleviating stress and mental anguish is to get outdoors and stay active.

Whether you live in a warm climate or in the great white north, it is important to set aside a regular amount of time to get outside during the spring and summer months in order to take in some of the wonderful fresh air and all of the benefits that it can provide. Being outdoors is a great way to escape from your regular day to day stress and it can also contribute to more healthy living overall.

Fun and Rewarding Outdoor Activities

There are a number of different types of outdoor activities that can be fun and beneficial both physically and mentally. These can include: Walking – The older you get the more emphasis you should dedicate to keeping mobile. Studies have shown that those who take part in a regular daily walk have a better probability of keeping health ailments away. A walk doesn’t have to be anything intense or extensive. It can be done at a park, in your neighborhood, or even on a city or county-provided hiking trail. And it doesn’t have to be done alone. Walking buddies are great companionship and social opportunities to build friendships and reduce stress as you age.

  • Biking – taking a nice long bike ride can also provide both exercise and peace of mind while reducing the stress on overworked or sensitive joints like the hips or knees. Today, there are many areas that provide bike paths and other options in order to pedal your way to physical and mental health. Biking community groups are very popular and can be a great way to stay fit AND reduce stress with friends.
  • Gardening – For those who like to tinker in the yard, gardening can provide a great sense of accomplishment. This activity can encompass planting a few flowers in the yard or starting and maintaining a vegetable garden where you can enjoy the fruits – or vegetables – of your labor. Gardening can be done anywhere and everywhere. If you live in a city you can get creative with balcony gardens and indoor gardens. Add green to your living space. It will improve your breathing, memory and attention to detail.
  • Fishing – Whether you want to be alone or with others, there’s always a great opportunity to grab a fishing pole and head out to the water. Many who participate in fishing enjoy the mental relaxation and tranquility that this sport can bring about. The meditative qualities of the sport make it one of the most popular retirement activities and bonding experiences to connect younger and older generations.
  • Social Events – Social events can entail a variety of outside activities including picnicking with family and friends, attending sports games of grandchildren or other loved ones, or joining organized groups that participate in events such as shuffleboard or tennis. People remember times they spend outside, and they remember them even more because of the people they are with. Get outdoors and create memories with your loved ones. It’s good for your spirit and your health at the same time.

Scheduling Regular Mental Health Days

The monks had to be onto something when they spent years in mountain monasteries or parishes ruminating on the ideas of inner peach and harmony. By being able to simply clear your mind, you are much better able to focus and become aware of the happenings around you.

A recent study discussed in the ScienceDaily found that individuals showed an improvement in their mental well being when exercising outdoors versus indoors. Being active in a natural environment was actually associated with feelings of increased energy, revitalization, more positive engagement, and a decrease in feelings of depression, anger, tension, and confusion.

With this in mind, it is essential to schedule several outdoor “mental health” days per week. By simply being active in the sun and fresh air, a whole new feeling of both physical and mental vitality is likely to be a result. Make sure you take the time to unplug from the world and connect with the open air around you.

George Shaw writes about senior health and safety issues. He also helps seniors find California Nursing Homes and private care solutions.

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