Baker: Being outside is good for your mental health

Melissa Baker JEWISH FAMILY & CHILD SERVICE

Arizona is beautiful. Endless hiking trails and breathtaking views make it an ideal place to get outside and explore. And the good news is that being in nature can also improve your mental health and well-being, especially when combined with exercise.

Here are a few facts:

  • Studies have shown that being outdoors lowers cortisol levels, a hormone marker of stress. Mental illnesses like anxiety and depression can be alleviated by spending a little time outdoors.
  • The sun provides valuable vitamin D, which is essential for bone growth and regulating your immune system, which can be a powerful tool in fighting depression.
  • People who stare at computers and generally have too much screen time may find that being outdoors can relieve blurry and double vision, red eyes, and headaches.
  • Some research links increased levels of focus, creativity, and improved mental clarity to being outdoors. Do you have a challenging problem to solve? Give it some space and see if things get more obvious as you head out the door.
  • Deep breathing of fresh air can increase energy and lower blood pressure and heart rate, similar to meditation but with a desert scent outdoors.

While being outside is good for mental health, we need to take precautions, especially with Arizona’s high summer temperatures.

Do you want sun protection to be smart? Do the following:

  • The Arizona sun can damage skin even on cloudy days. Wear sunscreen daily (the higher the SPF, the better) and apply it for at least 20 minutes before going outside. Be sure to reapply every two hours. And don’t forget the lip balm. The lips also get sunburnt. An important note: While the sun is at its highest at midday, this is typically not the hottest time of the day, especially in Arizona. High temperatures usually occur from around 3pm to 4:30pm
  • Even if you’re putting sunscreen on your face, it’s still a good idea to wear a hat. A wide-brimmed hat provides better protection for the scalp, ears, face, and neck.
  • Wear your sunglasses. Sunglasses can reduce sun exposure, which can damage your eyes and lead to cataracts. Check the label and choose sunglasses that block at least 90% of UVA and UVB rays.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants to protect your skin when playing or working outdoors. Darker colors and tightly woven fabrics offer the best protection.
  • When you go outside, check the daily UV index. The Ultraviolet or UV Index (on a scale of 1 to 11) measures the intensity of the sun. The higher the UV value, the more careful you should be.
  • drink enough Arizona’s dry temperatures and low humidity can be deceiving, as you may not sweat as much as you would expect. Be sure to drink plenty of water.

With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, it is important at any age to be mindful and smart about sun safety and protection. This is especially important for children, as most sun exposure occurs before the age of 18.

So grab a bottle of water, put on your hat and sunscreen, and head outside. You will not regret it.

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