Thinking of suicide? Please call 1-833-456-4566 toll free (In QC: 1-866-277-3553), 24/7 or visit www.crisisservicescanada.ca.

You are currently on the:

National Site

Visit our provincial websites

Mental health and the great outdoors

Get outside while it’s still summer. Whether it’s a mountain hike, a picnic in the park, gardening or simply lounging in the sun, a dose of fresh air in nature lets your body and your mind take the break they need and deserve.

It has been proven that being in green spaces (like forests, gardens and parks) can significantly reduce cortisol (stress hormone), and raise endorphin levels and dopamine production (both of which may promote “happiness”)[1].

Getting better air isn’t the only advantage to being outdoors. Natural light (Vitamin D) will help regulate your sleep cycle[2]. Green spaces also promote doing physical activity, which can give your brain a boost, and can also improve your self-esteem, reduce stress and generally improve your quality of life[3]. In other words, getting outside and being in nature are a winning combination for your psychological and physical well-being.

Here are four ways to get the most out of your outdoor experience.

  1. Seize any and all opportunities

Have a picnic at lunch. Take a stroll with your friends. Take your dog out for a walk, or simply take time for yourself. It’s been proven that just being out in green space can have an instant impact on your well-being[4]. Even better, finding your favourite green space, either in town or in the country, will make you want to go back there again and again, and will allow you to decompress more often. *Tip : take a book, meditate or do some physical activity to get the most out of your break.

  1. Go camping

The crackling of a fire, the call of a loon and the sunset reflected on the lake:

there’s nothing more relaxing than a weekend (or more) in the woods. Whether you’re a pro camper, or you just prefer the occasional bit of glamping, there are so many places to go to relieve your stress and take in all the fresh air you want. *Tip : if you want to completely unplug, put your cell on airplane mode.

  1. Gardening for the mind and body

Whether you’re in your own yard, or at a community garden, simply taking care of your plants and connecting with nature can help calm your mind and get your body moving[5]. Gardening with friends is also a great opportunity for socializing. And you also get to harvest the fruits of your labour.

  1. Exploring new horizons

Have you always wanted to visit the park in your area, or somewhere farther afield? There are sights to be seen that will take your breath away. Adventure and new discoveries are just a few steps away, and taking them in can have a powerful impact on your self-confidence. Ours is a country with vast and rich green space: if you’re looking for your next destination, visit the Parks Canada website.

This article is part of the CMHA Quarterly newsletter. Subscribe to stay updated on our latest news, events and mental health tips.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793346/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25424517

[3] https://journals.lww.com/co-psychiatry/Abstract/2005/03000/Exercise_and_well_being_a_review_of_mental_and.13.aspx

[4] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494409000838

[5] https://academic.oup.com/heapro/article/22/2/92/558785