May is Mental Health Awareness Month. According to Mental Health America: Nearly 1 in 5 American adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year.
Good mental health is something that many people take for granted. Mental health is about mental wellness, and just like our physical wellness, we need to take action to stay healthy. For many people, getting outside is one of the best ways to improve their overall mental health. Studies have shown that getting outdoors can lift your mood, lower anxiety, increase cognitive function, improve memory and the ability to focus.
Reading about these benefits, though, and knowing someone who has been through the same or similar situation and experiences as yourself are different things. It's important to know and understand that you are not alone no matter what you're going through. To help raise awareness, the Huntress View Team wanted to share our own stories of how our mental health has improved from getting outdoors.
"For me, getting outdoors is an escape from the everyday monotony of work, computer, and emails. I work from home on a computer Monday through Friday, 40 hours a week. I get headaches from staring at a screen all day, and my posture doesn't benefit from it either. I'll take breaks to do laundry, yard work, take the dog for a walk, work out, or run errands, but I'm generally tied to my computer and phone. Once the weekend arrives, the last thing I want to do is spend it in the house. My body and mind need the outdoors to reset. Whether it's hunting, checking trail cameras, or just driving through the mountains, being outdoors works wonders for my mental well-being and provides some much-needed physical activity. By the time Monday morning rolls back around, my legs and back may be sore, but my mind is fresh again and ready for whatever the week throws my way."
Erin Hall Diegel
"I have been more deeply affected by this lately and have been trying to put in words my experience. The outdoors are literally what has mentally saved me. I am fortunate that I have discovered this as a release, but what is most profound is when your children begin to realize this can be theirs. We immerse them in the exposure of many things with hopes they will find that place in their heart and soul that grounds them. It has always been the wild for me."
Dr. Jennifer James
"When I got my bachelor's degree in psychology, I expected to learn about mental health. What I ended up learning was how deeply integrated mental, emotional, and physical health are. Our physical surroundings have a profound impact on our psychological well-being. Most hunters know that time spent in the outdoors has a positive influence on our mental and physical health. When we are unable to get outdoors, for whatever reason, our mental and emotional health can decline. Having lived in the high desert for the last decade, the long winters can often lead to seasonal depression for individuals who feel their best in the great outdoors. Incorporating nature into indoor spaces can have been shown to provide positive psychological benefits and can help ease symptoms of depression."
"Last September, my husband and I drove cross country to Montana for our first-ever archery elk hunting trip. There is nothing more bonding than being in the car with someone for 23+ hours, or so I thought. From when we passed through Yellowstone until we parked at our final destination, we were in awe. All we could talk about was God's beauty and the pureness of this great country, as we picked one of our many campsites on our trip. COVID was the word of 2020, and we felt mentally drained from all of its chaos. There was a point where we weren't even sure if we were going to make the trip! I will be forever grateful we did, though. While we spent days driving through the countryside, walking through Montana's majestic mountains, scouting, and sleeping under blankets of stars, we never felt closer. It was almost like everything melted away, all of our worries and the stresses of our day-to-day life. We depended on each other to climb up and down the mountains. I relied on his encouragement to keep me going when my blisters were throbbing and my muscles were screaming that they couldn't go on. With every elk bugle, we pressed on until we finally had success. Together we sat on the mountain, looking at this great animal the Lord blessed us with, and we were thankful. Thankful for the moment, for the opportunity, and for each other. Mother Nature offers some of the BEST medicine at the right moment, and it is free. She is the best teacher, counselor, and doctor that I know."
"I do not usually share when I have hard times. I struggle with being vulnerable, missing a deer or turkey; I think those things are relatable and do not mess with my internal well-being. In my life, my method of relaxation is getting outside. I am a sportsman. I love watching and being part of nature. Being outside, no matter what I am doing, melts the stress away. This spring, I taught six college courses which meant the time I usually spend hiking or chasing turkeys was spent on my butt behind my computer. My best friend and hunting buddy, Browning, came down with Vestibular Disease (dog vertigo), and I am not sure if we will be able to go in the field again. Another one of my dogs had a rapid onset heart tumor, and we had to let him go. Needless to say, I have been a little crazy and probably quick to get angry or cry because of the stress. This past week, I had my first opportunity to turkey hunt this season. I knew the toms were no longer cruising for hens and that most of the giant flock had moved on. I did not care--I just wanted to be there. Sitting in a field, seeing nothing but tweety birds, and listening to frogs made my stress melt away. I was lucky enough to see some toms and belly crawl to watch them from 300 yards in a place I could not go. It didn't matter that it rained or that there were ticks everywhere. Being out there, chasing birds, and watching nature fill my bucket."
Spending 20-30 minutes a day in nature has positive benefits, and there are so many activities you can do no matter your experience level or even if you have physical limitations. Outdoor activities aren't limited to hunting, long hikes, or camping. Simple things you can do are taking a walk in the park, bird watching, planting and tending to a garden, having a picnic for lunch, meditating or doing yoga, and so much more.
No matter your chosen activity, remember to take a few minutes each day for yourself, spend it in nature, and know that you are not alone.
Visit Mental Health America to learn more about improving your mental health.
Sarah Honadel is an avid outdoorswoman from Kentucky, now living in Idaho, who enjoys hunting elk, deer, turkey, pronghorn, and waterfowl. She is a team member at Huntress View, Pro Staff for Browning Trail Cameras, and Brand Ambassador for the BaseMap app. Follow her on Instagram @waddysarah and @arrowridgecreations.