Things To Do In West Michigan To Relieve Stress and Improve Mental Health

Stress is something everyone has experienced on some level. Unfortunately, these days stress has become a “normal” part of life for many of us, be that from work, family relations, or social media. Learning how to unwind and disconnect is vital to building a healthy life.

How The Internet Affects Our Mental Wellbeing

As we all know, social media is often detrimental to our self-esteem and overall health. It sucks us in, and we may find ourselves “doomscrolling” more often than we would like.

A study by Plos One dove deep into how Facebook imparticular affected participants’ mental health saying, “The more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt the next time we text-messaged them; the more they used Facebook over two weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time.”

But doesn’t social media (TicTok and Instagram included) allow us to reach our loved ones more regularly?

Yes and no.

The study explains this by saying, “On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it.”

What About The News?

Like social media, we all know that consuming too much of the news is bad for our health. The issue is that the news is easier to excuse because, in many instances, we should stay up to date on what is happening worldwide.

However, monitoring your time spent watching the same news real play over and over can be critical for lowing your stress levels.

A study by PNAS analyzed the media’s effects on individuals following the Boston Marathon Bombings in 2013. The conclusion they came up with is chilling, saying “Media exposure to collective stress may have measurable negative psychological effects, and extensive, repeated exposure to event-related media coverage may be an important mechanism through which these negative impacts are spread beyond the directly affected population.” Then later, “We provide evidence that media exposure can be more strongly associated with acute stress than direct exposure to a collective event.

This is why it’s essential to recognize how much is too much. A great way to fight back against these adverse effects is to cut back on media exposure. Try to only read trusted sources and limit the time spent consuming the news each day.

What Studies Say About Getting Outside For Your Mental Health

Getting outside is vital to your mental and physical wellbeing. However, studies show that how you spend your time outside matters. A ScienceDirect study talks about the importance of getting into nature, saying, “Compared to the urban walk, the nature walk resulted in affective benefits (decreased anxiety, rumination, and negative affect, and preservation of positive affect) as well as cognitive benefits (increased working memory performance).”

So while getting outside period is a win, consider finding ways to get yourself into nature for the best results.

What Are Some Ways To Get Outside In West Michigan?

West Michigan is full of fun things to do outdoors, especially in the summertime. Here are a few ideas for your next stress-relieving activity!

Free Activities

Calvin Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens

Calvin Ecosystem Preserve And Native Garden

Located in Grand Rapids, the Calvin Ecosystem Preserve and Native Garden has over 44 acres of land ready to be explored. Though you will have to leave your pet home, this quiet preserve has over 260 native plants sure to calm your mind and ease stress.

Millennium Park

Millennium Park

On the west side of Grand Rapids, Millennium Park is situated on the Grand River and offers six miles of beach and nearly 18 miles of trails. While this may be a bit more urban than the Calvin Ecosystem, it’s an excellent option for those who want a bit of variety in their outdoor adventures, including a splash pad and boat rentals.

Huff Park

Huff Park

While still located in Grand Rapids, Huff Park is a smaller option than the previous two. Classified as a “Neighborhood Park,” this little slice of nature offers a half-mile trail looping around the wetlands. And with restrooms and a play place inside, this is a great option for kids and adults alike!

Activities For a Little Cash

Sometimes spending a little money to do things we wouldn’t normally do is the best way to get us out of our day-to-day lives and remind ourselves what it feels like to be alive.

Blandford Nature Center

$3 per person

Blandford Nature Center

With 264 acres to roam about in, the Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids is a must for anyone who loves the outdoors. With trails to walk, a farm to meet animals in,  and wildlife programs and events, there’s plenty to do to help restore your mental health.

They are also dog friendly, though they do ask that all dogs be kept on a leash.

TreeRunner Grand Rapids Adventure

Ranges from $38 for a 3-Hour General Admission Ticket to $328 for their summer program

Treerunner Grand Rapids Adventure

Trade your regular workout routine for a trip through the trees at TreeRunner Grand Rapids Adventure Park!

Climbing trees and ziplining from one platform to another will unlock your inner child. It is a great option for anyone feeling stuck or out of touch with themselves.

Other Fun Things To Check Out

With so much to do in West Michigan, here are a few more things to check out!


Regardless of how you spend time outdoors, it is crucial to do so. Whether you’re hiking or simply soaking up the sun (with sunscreen), taking time for yourself away from life’s stressors can improve symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, and other mental health issues.

Still, not everything can be solved by simply walking a wooded trail. If you’re struggling with your mental health, professional counseling help through therapy is an excellent place to start. Schedule a session today by contacting us on our contact page or give us a call at  616-200-4433. At Health for Life Counseling, we take your mental health seriously.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

Written by Kaitlyn Pfiester; edited and reviewed by Paul Krauss MA LPC

Learn more about the Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids

Learn more about Counseling and Therapy services at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids

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