Improving Teen Mental Health: Mother Nature’s Cure For Stress and Anxiety
Teenage life today is incredibly fast paced, with school, homework, sports, part-time jobs, etc. While there really isn’t a way to avoid it, there is a way to keep yourself grounded and help find yourself when you feel lost in the chaos, reconnecting with nature.
Nature has its own healing powers used since the beginning of time. To get all the benefits you need, all you must do is put your toes in the sand, inhale a deep breath of fresh air, or simply enjoy the view.
Mental Health Struggles in Teens
Did you know the average teen spends around 7 hours and 22 minutes each day on their phones? That is a full-time job minus your lunch break! This time doesn’t even account for reading, homework, and listening to music, factoring that in increases the daily average to over nine hours a day.
Sadly, this number is steadily increasing and doesn’t look like it will slow down soon, with the popularity of online video content consistently changing to appeal to the teen population.
Now, let’s set aside the time spent on devices for a moment and look at the rest of a teenager’s day.
- Early to rise– The average school day in the U.S. begins at 8 am with a 7:45 arrival time.
- Late coming home- School ends at 2:30, with most sports practices going from 3:30-5 or later.
- Part-time job- Teens can work until 10 pm on a school night
- Homework– The average time spent on homework per day is 2-3 hours.
- Late to bed– Most teens don’t go to bed until 11 pm or later.
This is a lot for anyone, let alone teens who are struggling with hormones, fitting in, developing relationships, insecurities, pressure to succeed, and so much more.
So, how can we fight these challenges so many young adults today face without eliminating needs and wants? One of the best ways to get a significant break is by putting down mobile devices and reconnecting with nature.
How Can Nature Help?
Many experts agree that nature is a great way to support teenage mental health. Engaging in outdoor activities or simply going for a quick walk can decrease stress, relieve anxiety, and battle depression.
Studies have shown that 90 minutes outdoors could solve many mental health problems, but why?
Being outside offers many health benefits that are guaranteed to improve your mood.
- It reduces cortisol levels (which are known to trigger anxiety)
- It provides a quiet place to clear your mind
- It offers a peaceful environment
- It gives us time to practice gratitude
- Increases curiosity, a sense of adventure, and creativity
- Reduces screen time
- It offers a breath of fresh air
Some studies have shown that being outdoors can improve many symptoms of ADHD and mental fatigue. Nature offers a calming place to clear your head and let go of stressful ideas for a time.
You don’t have to impress nature to fit in. You aren’t required to live up to any expectations or guard yourself against failure, criticism, or rejection. In nature, teens can be themselves, flaws and all, giving a great sense of security, confidence, and even relief from the typical daily life.
How to Get the Full Effects of Nature
There isn’t a set guide for reaping the benefits nature offers. Yet, there are many ways teenagers can take advantage of this natural, self-improving environment.
Whether you prefer to spend time outside on your own, with a friend, or in a group, there is always something for you to do.
Go for a Walk, Take a Hike
The most well-known and commonly practiced way of enjoying time outside is by gearing up and going for a hike.
This is a fantastic way to let go troubling thoughts and lose yourself in the beauty of nature. You will get the benefits of fresh air, exercise, beautiful sights and sounds, and the ability to appreciate what the world offers, practicing gratitude as you go along.
If you don’t have time to go on a long excursion, simply throwing on some sneakers and hitting the pavement for 20-30 minutes each day will also do the trick.
Be Courageous and Climb a Mountain, Go River Rafting, or Get on a Bike
Teens have a need for excitement and challenge; what better way to bask in the sun and feel the gentle breeze than by scaling the side of a mountain or taking on the rapids in a raft?
Doing something that takes courage can help with self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem. While enjoying nature, teens can take pride in what they have accomplished while also having a ton of fun.
Not feeling that level of excitement? You can also increase your endorphins and lift your spirits by riding a bike, rollerblading, or canoeing on a calm lake.
Go Barefoot in the Grass (Meditate, Practice Yoga, Read)
Instead of constantly being on the move, try taking some time to enjoy the outdoors while being a little more sedentary.
If you enjoy meditating, reciting affirmations, or practicing yoga, consider moving these tasks to the backyard. Just sitting in the grass, planting your feet on the earth, and letting your senses take the lead, you will feel the benefits almost immediately.
You can do this alone or join a group; you can even practice yoga with baby goats, puppies, or cats. (Seriously, what could be more fun than that?)
Simply lying in the grass and reading a book, journaling, or listening to music can be a fabulous way to decompress and give your mental health a little love.
With so much on their plates, teenagers are more desperate than ever (and desperately need) an escape now and then. Spending time in nature is one of the best ways to improve mental health, encourage physical activity, and create healthy habits that will be beneficial for the rest of their lives.