After a long winter inside, many people yearn to step back into the outdoors and breathe in the fresh, clean air of Spring. Well, Springtime is now upon us. March 20 marks the official start of the season, and it is time to start getting ready to walk back out into nature. However, there are more reasons to get outdoors than just cabin fever.
As human beings, there are physical and mental health benefits to getting outside. Physical activity and being in the sun for short periods can make us all feel better, inside and out. When our skin comes into contact with ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, our bodies produce Vitamin D. Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to a host of physical and mental health ailments, including hair loss, depression, and low hormone levels.
As someone in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD), the opportunities for getting back outdoors in the Springtime cannot be missed. Going for a hike or a swim and enjoying nature connects us to our world and reminds us of what we are working toward. Perhaps you are finding a place of solitude in nature to do your devotions or push your body to greater heights of physical fitness. No matter what your goals are, there are plenty of Springtime opportunities for you in recovery.
Getting Out of SAD and Back Into Nature
Seasonal weather changes can impact you in ways you do not even realize. You may think of the winter hassle as shoveling snow occasionally. However, if you get depressed during this time of the year, you may be experiencing a specific form of clinical depression.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is thought to be linked to changes in the environment and the amount of sunlight the earth receives. During the winter, the days are shorter, and the nights are longer, leaving some people depressed. SAD is usually experienced during the summer and winter months of the year. During these times, weather and environmental patterns are at their most extreme and can disrupt daily routines, which can lead to depression.
Often, symptoms of SAD increase during the summer and winter seasons. Winter-pattern SAD often begins to abate in the Springtime, when the days begin to lengthen. If you experience SAD, you may already feel happier as the nights have grown shorter and the days longer. Warmer weather may have you itching to get out of the confines of your house and run free in the sunlight.
Now is the time to take advantage of that. One great way to get outside this Spring is to start a garden. Studies have shown that being around plants and green spaces can significantly benefit physical and mental health. Whatever you do this Spring, get outside and make it count. Now that we are past the winter blues, we can embrace the awakening world.
Strategies for a Healthy and Fun Springtime
- Don’t sit around; move: Make it your goal to exercise for five days a week, 30 minutes a day. Walking and taking the stairs can give you a great cardiovascular workout. Do not forget to train those muscles twice a week.
- Eat healthier: Try to make half of your plate vegetables and fruits. Eat whole grains when you have them, lean meats, and low-fat milk or nondairy products. Improving your diet can make you look and feel better.
- Drink plenty of water: Drinking water rather than calorie-rich beverages reduces calories but can also make you feel better with more hydration.
- Wear your sunscreen: Putting on good sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 can let you get the sunlight you need without getting burnt. If you are going to be in the sun for a long while, take a loose, light-fabric material coverup to keep your skin healthy. And don’t forget to protect your eyes with sunglasses!
- Sleep: Make sure you get your full eight hours per night so you can be rested and ready to conquer each day.
Springtime can bring a bunch of fun activities back into our queue. You can start training for National Biking Month in May or National Physical Education and Sport Week in the first week of May.
Exercising Your Way Into a Great Springtime
Studies continue to show links between getting outside in natural spaces and improved mental and physical health in individuals. Some research has shown that people who move to urban green space areas have sustainable mental health improvement. This indicates to researchers that there is a restorative aspect to nature.
Studies have also shown that engaging in regular aerobic exercise, including forms of cardiovascular exercise, improves chances of recovery from substance use. Exercise has also been shown to create significant neurological and biological changes that may account for this improvement.
Getting active does not necessarily mean a formal exercise program. Going for a leisurely walk on a nature trail is good for the heart and the soul. Kayaking on the river is great fun and great exercise. Riding your bike with your family means spending time together while getting the great benefits of physical exercise.
So, this Springtime, make your goal to get outside and get moving. While you are at it, you will find you have better stress regulation, improvements in mood, and many more benefits to your physical and mental health in recovery.
January and February can be the coldest months of the year, but March brings us the hope of renewal with Springtime. Now that the frostbitten air of the winter months is at our backs, it is time to start getting outside and enjoying all of the benefits of sunlight and the outdoors for our mental health. As we approach the official start of the Spring season on March 20, you can start getting outside and exercising, having fun, and getting all of the great benefits that nature can have on your recovery. Call your Renaissance Ranch brothers at (801) 308-8898, join a hiking group or golf tournament, and get moving this Spring!