14 Oct Connect With Nature And Improve Mental Health
Have you ever noticed your mood after you’ve spent an afternoon in a park, walked along the beach, or enjoyed a daytrip to the countryside? Perhaps you felt happier, more relaxed and even noticed your anxiety diminish.
The effect is known as “ecotherapy” or “green therapy”, an idea that by connecting with nature you can improve your wellbeing. The concept isn’t a new, with one of the first writings of the benefits of nature and mental health dating back to 1984. However scientific evidence is now catching up with strong evidence to suggest getting out amongst nature may be one of the best therapies for mental health.
Being close to green spaces has seen to:
Improve cognitive function and mood
Improve recovery post-surgery
Immersing yourself in nature may reduce depression
The University of Essex recently published a study which found that walking in a natural environment can reduce depression scores by 71 percent! Walking in a shopping centre on the overhand saw only a 45 percent reduction and 22 percent of people actually felt more depressed. There goals the idea of shopping is a good form of therapy!
Thanks to the positive research Mind, a UK mental health organisation, is encouraging people who are struggling with depression or at risk of developing a mental health illness to get involved with green activities like gardening. Further research has found that active and social contact with nature can be also beneficial when combined with treatment.
This is great news for city dwellers as they’re at a 40 percent greater risk of developing mood disorders such as depression than those who live in rural areas.
Being outdoors can boost your energy
If you’re feeling a little sluggish and fatigued, a study has found just 20 minutes spent outdoors can help boost your energy levels. Participants experienced a greater sense of vitality and energised after they had connected with nature. So perhaps instead of reaching for a coffee when you’re feeling a little tired, a 20-minute walk may be a better choice.
Vitality not only helps with your energy. Those with a higher vitality are believe to more resilient when it comes to physical illness too. While coming into direct contact with nature has a strong impact, even recalling experiences outdoors has been seen to increase happiness and have a positive effect on health.
Children and young people benefit from green therapy
It’s not just adults who can benefit from spending time in green spaces. A reduced prevalence of depression and anxiety have been seen amongst children who enjoy regular outdoor play and it’s believed they can enjoy long-term benefits associated with social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.
According to Beyond Blue, children who have close contact with nature also have a greater sense of identity, higher level of self-worth and resilience.
In young people, being close to nature not only lowers their anxiety and depression levels, but also reduces illegal activity and drug abuse. Perhaps it’s the increased self-worth, self-esteem and sense of belonging that steers them away from unhealthy and destructive behaviour.
Tips to get the most out of Mother Nature
So you don’t live opposite the beach or speed most of the daylight hours in an office cubical; that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of the benefits of being amongst Mother Nature.
Here are some tips to help you get your daily dose of green therapy:
Eat your lunch outside in a park, under a tree, beside the beach.
Plant some indoor plants for your home or office
Plant some herbs or veggies in pots or in the garden (it’s a great excuse to get you outdoors)
When the 3pm slump rolls by, take a 15-minute walk around the block
First thing in the morning, stand barefoot in the grass to practice earthing
Every weekend, plan an outing to somewhere outside the urban landscape
If you’re an urban dweller, speak to your local counsel about planting more trees or creating some communal veggies gardens to encourage your community to get outdoors