Many of us would acknowledge that we feel better, perhaps a bit refreshed, lighter or more relaxed after a day spent in nature, but not so many of us would consciously prioritise spending time in nature as a way to improve mental health.
Scientists working in the field of eco-therapy have been studying the effects of nature on well-being. Indeed, there are many healing and psychological benefits of being in nature and natural settings. Studies show that walking in nature could lead to lower risk of depression. People who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area showed reduced brain activity in an area associated with a key factor in depression (rumination), compared with those who walked in a high traffic environment. Rumination is the experience of having repeated thoughts that are negatively biased, which commonly occurs in depression.
Beyond Blue conducted research on the benefits of nature on mental health and found that “the effects of living in a green environment cannot be underestimated”.
Some of the benefits discovered in their research were:
- Improved mood
- Lower levels of anxiety
- Reduced stress levels
- Lower levels of depression
- Increased physical activity
Conversely, people who live in a perceivably “less green” environment have a higher chance of poor physical and mental health (e.g. higher stress).
So why not take these exciting results into your life?
Spending time in nature could be a useful adjunct to counselling, as a way to treat mental health issues, boost wellbeing and prevent relapse. To maximise the benefits of being in nature, why not do this mindfully? Here there are some simple ways to connect with nature for you: