Lifestyle

Go Outside On World Mental Health Day

by Kendra Clapp OlguínOct 8, 2020

In the United States, 40 million adults are affected by an anxiety disorder, and, each year, 16 million adults experience clinical or major depression. I am one of those 40 million adults, and I have been, multiple times in my life, one of the 16 million. 

The most recent time that I experienced major depression was four years ago. I’m a proud homebody, but with depression, I’m practically a hermit. I felt as though I was sinking: sinking into my self, sinking into my bed, unable to get out.

With the help of several variables, including the love and support of friends and family, therapy, and medicine, I found my way out bit by bit in the coming months. During my recovery, I also began planning a new phase in my life: my marriage to my now-partner, Tyler. Both at a place in our lives where we wanted to experience more, we purchased a trailer and eventually began living and working on the road fulltime, working for the nonprofit HAS HEART that Tyler co-founded years before.

An Airstream trailer sits under a series of trees with a black pickup truck parked next to it.

Now, remember when I said I was a homebody? With a camper, we were able to tow our little home wherever we went. That small 200 square-foot space with my cat, bed, couch, kitchen, etc. provided stability and sense of security I needed in a life where I was waking up every morning, pulling the curtains open to a different view.

A woman sits near a ledge that overlooks a valley at Zion National Park in Utah.
A couple sit around their campfire and Airstream trailer looking up at the starts at Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.

We have traveled to 40 states, 25 National Parks, various National Forests, and many state parks. We’ve kayaked Lake Tahoe, spotted a moose in northern Maine, hiked amongst the redwoods, and have walked through the canyons of Big Bend in Texas. Most importantly, we have our coffee outside, work from campground picnic tables, and sit to look at the stars at night. 

A man writes in his journal while sitting on a camp chair at his campsite.
A couple kisses while taking a break from canoeing and on a picnic along the Saco river at On The Saco Family Campground in Brownfield, Maine.

While it can be messy and hectic, this lifestyle got me out. I’m beyond thankful for the hours of therapy, the love from Tyler and my friends/family, and my doctor’s support. I’m also grateful for our travels, this little trailer, our adventures, and the moments in nature. There is not a doubt in my mind that our increased amount of time outdoors has helped me mentally.

A path going through a patch of dry grass and through a canyon at Big Bend National Park in Texas.
A woman paddles in a green kayak in Junior Lake in Lakeville, Maine.

In fact, studies have shown that spending time outside can lead to an increase in outdoor light and Vitamin D that elevates one’s mood. Additionally, it promotes physical activity that is beneficial to your mental health and improves concentration.

This upcoming October 10 is World Mental Health Day, an international day to promote mental health education, awareness, and advocacy against the social stigmas of mental illnesses. While there are different ways to take part in the campaign to normalize valuing mental health, a simple way is to value yours and set aside time to spend outdoors. Outdoor activities can range from physical exercise to relaxing outside and self-reflecting, surrounded by nature.

A woman sits at a campground picnic table while writing in her journal.

One of our favorite things to do outside is journaling. I recently purchased a 600-page journal as a challenge to fill with miscellaneous thoughts and doodles. Tyler gives me grief about how heavy the darn thing is but, slowly but surely, I’m filling it up.

A man embroiders his hat with his case full of threads and patches sits on his lap.

Tyler picked up the hobby of embroidery while traveling. He has created several different patches to put on his hats as well as a handkerchief he can use instead of wasting a bunch of tissues. Embroidery is something he can do outside to disconnect from all of the alerts, screens, and demands from our fast-paced, modern lives.

A woman looks out to the water during the sunrise at Acadia National Park in Maine.

Now more than ever, we all need to get out: out of our heads and houses and go outside. So, again, I implore you to spend time outdoors (safely) this upcoming World Mental Health Day. Take it from me, it will only do you good.