Outdoor Activities for Mental Health in Tennessee

March 29, 2024

Do you have mental health concerns? One of the first things your doctor or therapist will advise you to do is participate in activities outdoors. Even people without mental health issues can benefit from doing these activities. Spending time in nature can help you replenish your vitamin D levels when exposed to sunlight. Science has proven that exposure to sunlight can boost your serotonin levels. Serotonin has a direct impact on mental health. This is why mental health conditions such as SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder exist in the first place.

Benefits of Outdoor Activities for Mental Health

Activities outdoors have also been linked with different mental health benefits, such as:

  • lowered stress levels
  • improved moods
  • less cognitive fatigue
  • an immune system boost
Two people hiking representing fun outdoor activities for mental health
Outdoor activities for mental health bring many benefits.

Also, spending time outdoors with a group of people can bring you a sense of connection, especially if you all engage in a group activity. This is especially important for teens, who report higher self-esteem and prosocial behaviors after group activities, and for senior citizens. According to the World Health Organization, seniors generally experience higher levels of isolation and loneliness once they retire from their jobs and have a less demanding schedule.

What’s Special About Spending Time Outdoors in TN?

The state of Tennessee offers a lot of excellent opportunities to spend time in nature. Some of the available natural features of the state include:

  • promising hiking trails
  • cave and cavern systems
  • underground lakes
  • waterfalls
  • mountains

Many adults in TN experience mental health issues, with as many as 19.4% of adults reporting any mental illness. If this is the case, if you live in Tennessee and you are experiencing mental health issues, you should take early action. Why not take advantage of what’s a short drive away, then, and partake in outdoor activities?

Fun Group Activities for Mental Health Patients

Some fun group activities for mental health patients include:

  • hiking
  • walking or running
  • practicing yoga poses
  • bird watching
  • gardening

Of course, many of them can be done independently as well.

However, the benefits are even more significant when you partake in group activities outdoors. According to Biddle and Asare (2011) at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, physical activity is linked to positive psychosocial outcomes in children and adolescents. On the other hand, Chipperfield (1997), from the University of Manitoba, Canada, found links between senior citizens intentionally creating connections and improved mental and physical health. So, if you choose to participate in outdoor activities with your mental health in mind, you may select a group option, such as an outdoor yoga class or hiking.

Outdoor Yoga and Mindfulness

Yoga is an ancestral spiritual practice that involves intentional movement in the body. Over time, it can stretch your muscles before or after more strenuous physical activity and work on flexibility and balance. At Time Wellness Tennessee, we offer outdoor yoga classes in groups so you can benefit both from the benefits of yoga and the physical and mental health advantages of spending time in nature.

A silhouette of a woman doing yoga outside
Yoga strengthens your body and mind.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, while being linked to yoga, can be done while sitting or standing perfectly still and may be preferred by senior citizens or people who have physical disabilities. It teaches you to stay present in the moment and observe your environment, which can be excellent, with so many beautiful and relaxing sights and sounds available.

Equine Therapy

A team of therapists and equine experts uses horses to work on specific mental health concerns. This is because horses are prey animals and susceptible to changes in their environment. They can quickly read your mood and even anticipate your movements.

Equine therapy is particularly effective when treating mentally ill individuals who are showing antisocial or violent behavior since, if they give attitude to the horses, the horses give them attitude right back. However, it has also been very effective in treating relational issues and during family therapy. Equine therapy can be a good fit for all ages and offers the benefits of being outside and interacting with animals.

Four horses representing equine therapy as one of fun group activities for mental health patients
Horses can help mental health patients because they can read your mood quickly and anticipate your movements.

Group Walks and Hikes in Nature

At Time Wellness, you get to experience the nature of the state of Tennessee firsthand while walking or hiking with a group of adults going through a process similar to your own. You get to move your body, raise your endorphins while practicing group bonding, and learn to trust others as you advance through hiking trails. Physical exercise is prevalent in our treatment options, sometimes being done first thing in the morning.

Activities for Mental Health for Different Age Groups

Different individuals have different mental health needs according to their age groups. So, let’s explore:

  • mental health activities for teens
  • mental health group activities for adults
  • fun mental health activities for kids
  • mental health activities for seniors

Mental Health Activities for Teens

Teens are still forming their identities and sense of self. Feeling integrated into a group can be crucial for identity formation during these formative years.

The following activities can enhance their emotional well-being and equip them with tools to handle stress and build strong, supportive relationships:

  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness practices help teens become more aware of their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Meditation sessions can teach them to focus on the present moment, reducing stress and promoting a sense of peace.
  • Creative Expression Workshops: Encouraging creative outlets such as art therapy, writing, or music allows teenagers to express their emotions in a constructive and therapeutic way. Workshops can provide a safe space for self-expression and the exploration of personal experiences.
  • Physical Activity and Yoga: Regular physical activity is known to improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Yoga therapy, in particular, combines physical movement with mindfulness, offering a holistic approach to mental well-being.
  • Skill-Building Workshops: Workshops focused on developing coping skills, emotional intelligence, and stress management techniques to empower teens to handle life’s challenges more effectively. Learning these skills in a supportive environment can boost their confidence and resilience.
  • Nature and Outdoor Activities: Engaging with the natural environment through activities like hiking, gardening, or environmental conservation projects can have a calming effect and enhance emotional well-being. It encourages a connection with nature and promotes physical health.
  • Digital Detox Challenges: Encouraging teens to take breaks from social media and digital devices can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression associated with screen time. Digital detox challenges can help them find a healthier balance between the online and offline worlds.

Mental Health Group Activities for Adults

Adults may prefer to participate in outdoor activities to counteract the mental fatigue they experience from their professional lives. They may gravitate towards group activities to lower their stress levels and heighten the oxytocin in their bloodstream.

A woman meditating in the filed
Meditation helps you relax and handle stress.

The activities below are designed to build a sense of community, enhance self-awareness, and promote strategies for coping with stress, anxiety, and severe depression:

  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Workshops: Teaching adults how to practice mindfulness through meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation techniques.
  • Physical Wellness Activities: Physical exercise, such as group yoga, dance classes, or outdoor group fitness, has been shown to significantly improve mental health. These activities encourage a healthy lifestyle while also providing social interaction and a break from daily stressors.
  • Cooking and Nutrition Workshops: Nutrition plays a key role in mental health. Group cooking classes or workshops focusing on nutrition education can teach adults how to prepare healthy meals that boost mood and overall well-being.
  • Book and Film Clubs: Discussing books or films that explore mental health themes can stimulate insightful conversations and provide a relatable framework for discussing personal experiences. These clubs offer both intellectual stimulation and emotional support.

Fun Mental Health Activities for Kids

Mental health activities for kids are designed to be enjoyable and interactive, making the concept of mental health accessible and positive for kids. Below are several examples:

  • Emotion Charades: A twist on the classic game of charades, where instead of movies or books, children act out different emotions.
  • Mindfulness Scavenger Hunt: Asking children to find things in nature that engage their senses, such as something they find beautiful or a sound they enjoy.
  • Yoga and Animal Poses: Yoga can be a fun way for children to explore movement while learning about calmness and focus. Using animal poses makes yoga more relatable and engaging.
  • Gratitude Jar: Create a gratitude jar where children can write down or draw things they are thankful for on small pieces of paper to put in the jar.
  • Feelings Collage: Provide magazines, newspapers, and colored papers for kids to create collages that represent different emotions they experience.
  • Emotion Garden: Creating an “emotion garden” where kids can plant flowers or vegetables that represent different feelings or aspects of mental health. Gardening is a soothing activity that teaches responsibility and care.
A gratitude jar
Making a gratitude jar is not really an outdoor activity but it is a good one for mental health.

Mental Health Activities for Seniors

Senior citizens may prefer less taxing physical activities such as yoga or bird watching over strenuous hikes. They are more likely to opt for group activities, especially if they don’t see many people in their daily lives other than live-in spouses, neighbors, and helpers.

Here are some more options:

  • Brain Games and Puzzles: Cognitive exercises such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, or memory games help keep the mind sharp and can slow down or mitigate the effects of cognitive decline.
  • Gardening Clubs: Starting a gardening club or allocating space for individual gardening plots allows seniors to enjoy the outdoors, nurture plants, and enjoy the fruits of their labor, promoting a sense of achievement and self-sufficiency.
  • Walking Groups: Regularly scheduled walking groups promote physical activity and provide a social outlet. Walking in nature, in particular, can have a calming effect and support mental well-being, offering an enjoyable way to maintain health and connect with others.
  • Music and Dance: Music therapy has the power to evoke emotions and memories, making it a powerful tool for mental health. Organizing music-related activities, such as sing-alongs, dance classes, or musical performances, can provide joy and stimulate cognitive functions.
Hands in dirt while gardening
Gardening is one of the excellent activities for mental health for all ages.

Which Activities for Mental Health Do You Choose?

Spending time outdoors, either moving your body or participating in less intensive activities such as mindfulness practices or equine therapy, has many benefits. Group activities have been shown to have a positive effect on people who are experiencing mental health issues. While the preferences and benefits of spending time outdoors may vary according to your age group, they are beneficial in different ways for all ages. So, choose among the many activities for mental health and experience all the benefits they can bring. For any other support, contact Time Wellness Tennesee. We are here to help you in any way you need.

References

Biddle and Asare (2011). “Physical activity and mental health in children and adolescents: A review of reviews.” British Journal of Sports Medicine, 45 (11). 886 – 895. VU Research Repository.

Chipperfield (1997). “Remaining active in later life: The role of health locus of control in seniors’ activity level, health, and life satisfaction.” Journal of Aging and Health. 9(1):105-125.

Coventry et al., (2021). “Nature-based outdoor activities for mental and physical health: Systematic review and meta-analysis.” SSM Popular Health, 2021 Dec; 16: 100934. Published online 2021 Oct 1. National Library of Medicine.

“Mental Health in Tennessee.” Mental Health and Substance Use State Fact Sheets. KFF: The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news.

“Reducing Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older People.” World Health Organization.

Sansone & Sansone, 2013. “Sunshine, Serotonin, and Skin: A Partial Exploration for Seasonal Patterns in Psychopathology?” Innovative Clinical Neuroscience, 2013 Jul-Aug; 10(7-8): 20–24. National Library of Medicine.