Patient Blogs | Depression
How Spending Time Outside Improves My Depression
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When I’m feeling depressed, every instinct in my body tells me to stay in bed and not leave it. Even though I know this will just make my depression worse, it’s hard to fight it sometimes.

One positive coping skill I learned early on in my depression journey is spending time outside. It always seems to give me peace and clarity. When I was deep in my depressive episode and wasn’t able to sleep in the middle of the night, I would either open my windows or go sit outside. It would be 3 in the morning, and I would listen to music, sit on my porch, and reflect on my emotions. It was so helpful for me to leave my bed and get fresh air.

Spending time outside can seem like a daunting task when it’s difficult to just get out of bed in the morning. Spending time outside can mean whatever you want it to mean to you. It doesn’t have to be a run or even a walk, it can be simply standing outside for 5 minutes and breathing in the fresh air.

It’s OK to modify your plans. I’ve noticed if I tell myself I have to go on a run that day and don’t feel well enough to go, I’ll end up doing nothing. If a goal I made previously overwhelms me at the moment, I find myself shutting down and not doing anything. Going on a walk is better than doing nothing. Standing outside for 5 minutes is better than not going outside at all. If you made a big goal for yourself and it’s too intimidating that day, modify it to something you CAN do that day.

Use your time outside to multitask with something else you love. I have found that reading books has helped my mental health. I am able to quiet the racing thoughts in my mind during reading. I started reading on my porch almost every day, and it has been so great for my mental health. It feels so nice to be outside and also spend some screen-free time (which we could all probably use more of).

If you don’t have the ability to read outside every day, you can listen to an audiobook or a podcast as you walk. I like listening to motivating podcasts. They help give me perspective on life and the world. Another thing I like to do on walks is to call someone I love. It’s a great time to catch up with someone you haven’t talked to in a while and also get fresh air. Taking walks outside significantly improves my mental health.

Finding a buddy to help you spend time outside can be beneficial. Call a friend and ask if they want to do something outside with you. Take your dog on a walk. Eat dinner outside instead of the kitchen table for once (because why not)!

If opening your window to get some fresh air is the most you’ll go outside today, that’s OK, too. Give yourself grace and know tomorrow is a new day. Make small, attainable goals for yourself.

Getting some fresh air will help you, I promise. Make a goal for yourself to spend at least some time outside every day. You can do this.

Now get up and go outside!



Photo Credit: martin-dm / iStock via Getty Images Plus

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Katharine Hartleb

Katharine Hartleb

Diagnosed since 2014

Katharine Hartleb was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2014, at age 16. She has a passion for helping others and plans on becoming a mental health counselor. Hartleb lives in Charleston, SC, and is a recovery coach at a substance use disorder facility. She is also a young adult presenter for NAMI, sharing her personal story. Connect with her through her personal Instagram and her kat4kindness Instagram.

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