The Theraputic Benefits of Nature in Mental Health Programs

getting outside is good medicine for everyone

Millions of Americans suffer from mental illness. That is a well known fact.

Lesser known is the effectiveness of being outside in natural surroundings.

In fact, according to Stanford researchers, city dwellers have a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders as compared to people in rural areas. People born and raised in cities are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia.

The mental health benefits of getting outside are legion: decreased mental and physical stress, decreased cortisol levels while increasing seratonin levels, decreased depression, increased mental focus, increased self esteem, increase in desire to interact with others...and getting outside has been proven to be as effective as medication for mild to moderate anxiety and depression.

Our Behavioral Health counselors encourage our clients to go outside often. Especially during spring, summer and fall months, our programs regularly schedule outside activities: walks, visits to parks, working in a garden, or cookouts. Simply sitting outside promotes sociability, empathy, and so much more.

Study after study has proven the mental and physical health benefits of getting outside, but we do not need studies to tell us the real truth: we have been astonished at the results of our program-wide camping trips, where clients show very few (if any) symptoms while away from their homes and in the out-of-doors for a couple of days.

From the outset, our innovative clinical model has included walks, field trips, outdoor meals (when feasible), and gardening as a regular portion of clients' goals. An unexpected benefit of these activities is the bonding that occurs between clients and counselors when they go beyond the confines of the familiar indoor environment.

We can always use gas cards, grocery cards, donations of tickets to state parks and beaches, and ideas of new outdoor places to explore in our programs' communities. Call us with any ideas 207-373-1140. Click here to visit our Behavioral Health Program Webpages.