The Great Outdoors: How Nature Helps Us Grieve

Grieving is a natural process after losing a loved one. How you process your grief and all the emotions that surround a death takes many different forms. According to experts, one of the healthiest coping mechanisms is to simply get outside.

Natural light and greenery are associated with physiologically reducing blood pressure and the hormone cortisol, both of which are linked to stress. According to clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, physical activity performed outdoors “allows for an elevation in positive neurochemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins given the positive influence of sun on the body’s neurochemistry.”

While outdoor activities are not a substitute for seeking professional help managing depression that may be experienced while grieving, being active does help facilitate neurochemical balance and provide healthy outlets for the grieving process. Whether you are normally active or lead a more sedentary life, there is a rewarding activity in the outdoors for you.

Plant a Memorial Garden

Gardening is a great activity that helps improve physical health. While gardening, people naturally gain more exposure to sunlight, which results in a rise in vitamin D absorption and leads to increased calcium levels, both benefitting your immune system. Planting a memorial garden, specifically, allows you to enjoy the health benefits of gardening while having an opportunity to remember your lost loved one. And the best part is, it’s an activity you don’t have to do alone. Tending to your memorial garden can allow you to connect with nature while spending time with others who are also grieving the loss of your loved one.

To make your memorial garden more personal, plant your lost loved one’s favorite flowers, fruits or vegetables to create a space for reflection and remembrance.


Not only is exercising important for improving your overall heath, it has also long been linked to improving mood and reducing anxiety and stress, which leads to better sleep and enhanced concentration.

During times of grief, many mental health professionals recommend exercising for its direct connection to stress relief. According to the Mayo Clinic, physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain’s endorphins and can lower symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety.

Exercising outdoors provides the added benefit of fresh air and sunlight. Popular outdoor exercise activities that are enjoyable for people with varying physical abilities include yoga, hiking, biking and going for walks.

Explore a New Place

Sometimes, planning for a new adventure can help you take your mind off of your grief.

For a low-stress excursion, check out a local state park. Pack a light picnic with your favorite foods, or your lost loved one’s favorite foods, and take in the beauty of the new landscape either by yourself or with friends.

Traveling to a new destination can be equally beneficial to your health. A study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association found that traveling improves mood and overall outlook on life. According to the findings, 86 percent of those who travel are satisfied with their life, in comparison to just 75 percent who do not travel.

The mood-boosting effects of traveling can also help people cope with grief and stress. Seemingly small moments, such as bike riding in a new forest preserve or capturing the perfect photo of a landmark in a place you’re visiting for the first time can make a positive impact on your grieving process. While it is natural and important to grieve and mourn your loved one’s death, it is equally important to actively work toward being happy again.

Just Get Some Fresh Air

Every activity you do outside doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Other relaxing outdoor activities include taking a walk around the neighborhood after dinner, enjoying a cup of coffee or tea on the porch and taking a short break during your workday for fresh air and sunlight. All of these activities give you time to decompress, relax, think about your loved one and boost the neurochemicals in your brain.

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