Spring is in the air in most areas of the country, and we can’t help but be drawn outdoors to enjoy a break from the icy chill of Winter! We know from studies and experience that getting outside can be a refreshing break from “cabin fever” but now we know that it might be easier than you think to enjoy the benefits.
The University of Alabama Birmingham conducted a study at three urban parks in Alabama that regularly have visitors. The study participants reported that they felt better after spending as little as 20 minutes in the park – even if they weren’t being physically active. An excerpt from the University’s report says:
Principal investigator Hon K. Yuen, Ph.D., OTR/L, professor in the UAB Department of Occupational Therapy, said the original intent of the project was to validate previous research findings on the impact of park visit on emotional well-being, and evaluate the contribution of choosing to participate in physical activity in the park in relation to emotional well-being after the park visit.
“Overall, we found park visitors reported an improvement in emotional well-being after the park visit,” said Yuen. “However, we did not find levels of physical activity are related to improved emotional well-being. Instead, we found time spent in the park is related to improved emotional well-being.”
While I always encourage people to be as physically active as possible – especially those dealing with symptoms of depression or anxiety – this is great news for those who have physical limitations. Even if you can’t (or don’t want to) take advantage of the running path through a park, just go. Go sit on a bench, meander through the trees, watch birds and people, meditate, pray or think. It will help you feel better!
So, take as little as 20 minutes out of your day to enjoy the Spring and lift your spirits by taking a mini-vacation in your local park!
Have you found any simple strategies for shaking off the doldrums or improving a “down” day? Share your ideas in the comments below!
Live, Work & Relate Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.