The topic of mental health is an important one that requires focused attention and further understanding from society in general. Many years back, having a mental health problem was something that was not talked about freely. Now, people are speaking up about mental health, including well known personalities and the stigma is being eliminated and more help and support is being brought forward.
While there are many drug medications that are being prescribed to people with mental health problems, there are also natural methods that are being tested to improve the mental health of individuals. One of these methods is nature therapy which promotes how being in nature can benefit a person’s mental wellbeing. Here are some mental health benefits of the great outdoors.
Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Multiple studies have been conducted on the relationship between natural spaces and improved mental health. Many basic level tests have shown significantly positive results by simply having subjects sit or walk for 20 minutes at the park. Overall, researchers found that being in any nature-based environment has a strong potential to reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood, focus and psychological well-being.
Nature Keeps You Calm
Ever wondered how we suddenly become calm when we’re walking in a park, sitting by a tree, listening to a bird or watching an insect? That’s because nature has its way of making you feel that way. Being in nature on its own promotes mindfulness, calmness and gratitude. This inherent feeling of peace, quiet and simplicity helps in clearing our minds of unnecessary thoughts and worries. It also reduces the feeling of anger and tension.
Not only does this help with mental calmness but nature also promotes healthy physical activity, which is a major factor in battling depression. Performing physical activity outdoors will increase your energy levels, help you become physically stronger and will increase happiness.
Natural Light Helps with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression someone may experience during certain times of the year. It could last for months, depending on the type of weather or season you are triggered by. One patient has described this condition as like dragging a black cloud around with them.
To prove this theory, mental health practitioners in the University of Salt Lake City treated two patients with SAD in different settings. One was treated by walking outdoors (under natural light) daily for 1 week, while the other patient walked indoors under low, artificial lighting. The latter did not show signs of improvement after a week while the former showed significant signs of improved well-being, better sleeping patterns, and an increase in dopamine and serotonin, also known as our happy hormones!
Encouraging Social Connection
We humans have changed our ‘norms’. Technology, with all its advancements, benefits and amazing imagery has its clear downsides – it takes us away from societal awareness and can keep us away from human interaction. Now that we have moved past the difficult lockdown COVID years, nature will help us unplug, unwind and reconnect with each other and with wildlife which is the true norm for humans.
Social activities encourage social inclusion, which for people battling depression is often extremely important. It helps people have that sense of belonging, being wanted, listened to and of inclusion. It reduces the feeling of isolation and loneliness.
Nature Has Restorative Properties
Countless benefits on mental health have been associated with nature. Being in nature increases your energy and improves the feeling of vitality and focus. It has also been shown to reduce symptoms of ADHD.
A study in the University of Illinois, namely the Attention Restoration Theory, suggests that being in close contact with nature supports attentional functioning. Particularly in children and young people, the study examined the relationship between children’s exposure to nature through leisure activities. Results of the study indicated that children with ADHD will function better than usual after being exposed to nature and outdoor activities and it lessens their symptoms of attention deficit.