Nature plays an important role in our lives in keeping us healthy. Research shows how many benefits there are to spending time in the great outdoors. Read on to find out more about how nature is good for your mental health and how incorporating it into your daily routine can positively change your life.
The definition of nature
When we say nature, what does it mean? Are we just referring to green spaces or do urban spaces also have the same benefits? Do we need to be in a park surrounded by trees or are we gaining the same from having plants in our homes? Well, the simple answer is, nature has many varying definitions. A research study from the Mental Health Foundation revealed that anything from parks and woodlands, beaches or private gardens and even watching nature documentaries can be good for our mental health. So, no matter where you live, you can find joy in the small pockets of nature you can see and improve your physical, emotional, and psychological wellbeing.
What the research says
There is a wide range of literature that looks at the association between being exposed to nature and the direct impact it has on our health. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can improve cognitive function, lower blood pressure, decrease chronic diseases, help with your quality of sleep and improve your mental health. Frequent time spent in nature of all kinds can positively impact your life. In times when we spend a lot of time at our desks, working from home, or in corporate spaces, slowing down and breathing in the fresh air of the outdoors can be the best medicine.
A research study by the Mental Health Foundation found that over 45% of people in the UK reported that visiting green spaces during the global pandemic helped them cope. It was during those turbulent times that many realized the strong connection they felt with the natural world and how having a close relationship with nature can have a positive emotional experience, nature can generate a multitude of positive emotions including creativity, joy, calmness, and gratitude.
Findings have also shown that spending more time outside during childhood can have a direct impact on your mental health as an adult. A study from Denmark revealed that children who lived in neighborhoods with more green space had a reduced risk of developing mental disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and anxiety in later life. It also showed that even being exposed to images of nature could have a positive effect on a person, seeing nature leads to improvements in positive emotions, concentration, and the ability to reflect on problems and find solutions.
A further and more recent study by the Environment & Human Health team at the University of Exeter found that exposure to the natural world reduces stress and promotes healing. The study of over 20,000 people revealed that spending two hours a week in the natural environment can have positive effects on a person’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Finding time in your routine
We all live in busy times. There always seems to be something on the to-do list that captures our attention. But being in nature, connecting with the outside world, and spending time in green spaces are essential for your health and wellbeing. Did you know that a simple walk in nature can help your memory? A study from the University of Michigan found that those who took part and walked in nature performed 20% better on a memory test than those who stayed inside.
There are many little ways you can spend time in nature, you go for a flower walk in your local park to see how many different ones you can find, in the warm weather, you can eat your breakfast outside, go cloud watching on your lunch break or go stargazing when the sun goes down. Make it your top priority to get out of the house and enjoy nature at least once every day and notice the amazing differences in your life. Build a relationship with nature and you will see a change in your mental health.
How to stay mentally healthy
There are many ways to stay mentally healthy including having a well-balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, doing activities you enjoy, and having healthy relationships. But surrounding yourself with nature can also benefit your spiritual wellbeing and help you connect to feelings of gratitude, love, and purpose. So, place plants around your home, go for a walk in the rain or find time in your busy schedule to watch a sunrise or sunset at least once a week. Spending time in nature and its restorative benefits have been known in different cultures throughout the world and all of human history. The best way to be the happiest and healthiest version of yourself is to step outside, take a deep breath, and enjoy the beauty and benefits of nature.