As we head into summer, many of us look for every opportunity to be outdoors and soak up some sunshine. Have you ever noticed how much we all look forward to the summertime, despite the fact that most of us don’t have summers off like we used to as kids? What is it about summer that makes us feel more relaxed, laid back, and ready to explore the great outdoors?

Spending more time outdoors surrounded by nature can significantly influence your general wellbeing. Studies have shown that nature is good for our mental health and that nature and mental health have a fundamental connection. Take a look at the top four ways nature supports your mental health.

Nature & Mental Health Benefits

1.) Mood Boost

Being outside in nature with the sounds of birds chirping and the foliage changing green can help calm you and clear your mind. While Surrounded by this type of tranquility, you may slip into a more peaceful mindset, relaxing your body and mind from daily concerns and reconnecting you with the present.

2.) Stress Relief

One of the most essential nature and mental health benefits is nature’s ability to relieve stress. Particularly beneficial if you’re living with anxiety and depression, the act of being in a natural setting can help you unplug from work and social life stresses. In fact, according to an article in Stanford News, “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.” While you may not be able to control where you live, you can work to incorporate more nature into your life, allowing the sounds and scenery to help ease your mind and relieve stress.

3.) Social Connection and Community

As humans, we’re programmed with an innate connection to nature, and our bodies and minds crave this relationship. Spending time in greener space with less man-made influences can reconnect you with your community and the people around you. Nature inspires social interaction, which is a vital component in our wellbeing. GoGreen.org discusses the findings of a University of Illinois study that states “persons who lived in buildings with green space knew more people in their community, had stronger bonds with their neighbors, were more interested in helping one another, and had a stronger feeling of belonging,” demonstrating the powerful relationship between nature and mental health.

4.) Emotional Therapy

Nature surroundings can encourage positive emotions and help with emotional regulation. As you spend time in greener spaces, you allow yourself to relax and detach from the hustle and bustle of life. The mood-boosting and stress-relieving benefits of nature allow you to be more in tune with yourself, impacting your regulation of emotions and strengthening your focus and attention. Stanford News also discusses the findings of a university study that noted a decrease in neural activity in the area of the brain responsible for “repetitive thought focused on negative emotions” in participants who walked in the natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in an urban setting.

How to Incorporate More Nature into Your Life

Take a walk—During your lunch break, visit a nearby park for your daily walk, or go for a hike on the weekend.

View nature scenes—Create a slideshow of awe-invoking nature images like stunning mountains and waterfalls, and watch it without interruption a few times a week. See how relaxed and focused you feel after devoting time to viewing nature scenes!

Vacation in nature—Taking some time off of work has its own benefits, but spending your time off outdoors can really boost your mood and relieve stress. Go camping, go for a hike, or go visit a beach. The sounds and scenic views will reinvigorate and empower you.

Meditate in nature—Instead of sitting inside to meditate, try heading outdoors or to a local park to have your quiet, reflecting time. You’ll find it much easier to clear your mind and focus yourself.

With all this nice weather, there’s no reason for us to lock ourselves inside, especially when nature improves our mental health. Challenge yourself to do something outdoors this week, and take in the beautiful nature sights and sounds around you. Let nature help relieve, inspire, and empower you to take on whatever life throws your way.