Why being in nature can improve mental health

ended 07. May 2021

A website called Mind Journal is seeking views from Newspage experts on why nature is important to us. Their specific questions are below.

  1. Why is nature important to us?
  2. What changes in our bodies and brains when we spend time in nature?
  3. Are we spending enough time in nature now?
  4. How long-lasting is the 'boost' nature gives us?
  5. If we don't have access to nature, is watching a nature documentary or listening to bird song helpful?

Please provide anything else you think is useful about the link between mental health and nature.



 

6 responses from the Newspage community

"Being in nature gives us a direct connection to the wider universe. It allows us to let go of negative emotions and recharge our batteries. "For most people it is necessary to actually be in nature although, with training, listening to or watching nature scenes can also work."
"Using nature to uplift people looking to improve their mood and mental health has always been a popular home remedy, but there is a degree of 'science' to it, too. "Studies assessing psycho-physiological stress concluded that people subject to natural views or immersing themselves within natural (as opposed to urban) landscapes showed decreased stress, improved mood and better performances on attention tests. "For people without garden space or who reside deep within urban areas, there are ways in which you can bring the outdoors, indoors. "Certain activities, such as bonsai, can have a profound impact on your mental health simply by caring for nature in the form of plants. "More specifically, the practice of mindfulness goes hand in hand with caring for plants and can help people make better decisions, enhance their creativity, build resilience and even help people extend their concentration."
Being in nature supports our bodies rest and digest functions. The ability to reduce our cortisol levels and begin to boost our positive neuro transmitters like serotonin and endorphins. It connects us visually, sensory and reduces the impact of the busy busy lifestyle. Our bodies adjust to our surroundings supporting better mental and physical health being outside. The brain does not know the difference between real and imagination so watching nature programs can be beneficial particularly for those who maybe bed bound and limited outdoor access.
"Nurturing something other than yourself into life can really boost your general sense of wellbeing." "The benefits to being in nature, particularly for people living in urban areas, are phenomenal. "Studies have shown that being amongst nature and an abundances of wildlife are positively associated with a lower prevalence of depression, anxiety, and stress."
"Nature is more deep rooted in our brains than the cityscapes we live in now. Nature is a connection to previous experience and access to the real world, connectedness and calmness away from the hustle. "Our brains react to nature in a hugely positive way. Dutch researchers found a lower incidence of 15 diseases, including depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, asthma and migraines, in people who lived within about half a mile of green space. The impact of nature is not just on our brains but our bodies, as being close to, and in, nature you will be more inclined to move. "These days, there is a growing trend to 're-wild' but overall our nature is declining as our urban spaces grow further. It is clear that in dense urban areas the access to nature and clean air is declining but there are strong movements to try and change this. "As with everything, the real thing is always the best. For those who can's get into nature regularly, adding in-house plants and greenery is a great next step. Adding in nature sounds to a short pause in your day and a slow breath can also boost wellbeing but, as always, nothing beats the real thing."
"Nature keeps us connected to the earth, nourishing us, soothing and grounding us. It lifts our moods and enhances our wellbeing. "Nature bathing" is not only relaxing but healing, it allows us to be at peace. Such calming effects provide us with much needed relief from the busyness and stresses of everyday life. It's been found to increase our creativity, attention capacity as well as our ability to connect with others. "So much goodness abounds from the air we breathe to the beauty of the surroundings. Connecting with nature can boost our emotions, making us happier and also having healing effects physically and mentally. This has the effect of calming us, enhancing our moods and reducing stress. As we relax, our bodies release endorphins and we self-regulate like a thermostat resetting. It has a profound impact on our brains and our behaviour, cognitive effects as well as mental health effects. "The pandemic lockdown has made it difficult for many to connect with nature and as restrictions lift many will be happy to reconnect and soak up the energy that natures offers. "The boosts nature gives can last for days but like meditation we need to top up these reserves regularly. Combining time with nature along with mindfulness and meditation has long-term effects in enhancing mood and reducing stress. Even short spells out can have an effect. "Watching nature documentaries or listening to bird song can be extremely helpful. Being able to visualise and relax in your own home has real benefits. Our brains don't know the difference between actually being out in nature and visualising and listening to nature. That's why meditation and mindfulness are so effective. "Connecting and spending time with nature has been found to reduce depression and anxiety. Some consider ecotherapy and nature bathing as effective as taking medication. Soaking up the energy and clean air is like sinking into a warm bath."