Mental Health Prescription: Nature
Picture yourself walking on a beach – the scent of salt water in the air, the waves at your feet and the sun shining down on you.
Imagine yourself trekking in the mountains – the crisp fresh air, the lush green trees around you and the sound of chirping birds.
How do you feel?
Think about the last time you were in nature.
How did you feel then?
When we think and talk about nature, often people refer to feelings of joy, happiness and calmness. Spending time in nature is a beautiful and powerful experience and it can help us feel good. As an individual, you may have experienced these benefits and positive feelings. However, it is much more than that. In recent years, science has proven that nature and our environment are closely related to our mental health and well-being.
Nature is restorative, soothing and healing. Research studies have shown that including nature in your daily routine can improve sleep, reduce stress and encourage social interactions. Nature also plays a huge role in emotional regulation – it impacts mood by reducing anger and negative emotions and increases feelings of happiness. Furthermore, spending time in nature can also help to boost cognitive functions such as attention, memory and perception. Evidence has also suggested that nature has positive effects on people that have depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment. Spending time in nature is closely related with mindfulness. Being in nature encourages us to disconnect from our busy lives and gives us an opportunity to take a mental break. Nature engages all our senses and helps us focus on our surroundings. A study shows that the mindfulness and nature link lead to enhanced mood, increased awareness and greater connectedness.
Also read: Is Digital Recluse the Best Practice for Mindfulness?
Based on the aforementioned research, we can clearly see the benefits of spending time in nature. But one may ask, how much time must we spend in nature to truly reap these benefits? A study conducted by Mathew White at the University of Exeter, found that people that spent two hours per week in green spaces were more likely to report good health and psychological well-being.
In a world that is dominated by technology and urban exposure, it can be challenging to spend time in nature. But making time for nature and prioritizing your mental health is of utmost importance. So, go out there and get your 120 minutes of nature.
To help you kick off the journey, here are some ways to spend more time with nature:
- Go for a walk on your terrace
- Find green spaces in your city/town
- Take time to watch the sunrise or sunset
- Explore a park
- Go for a bike ride
- Snap photos of your favorite places in nature
- Sit by the ocean and listen to the waves
- Plan a weekend road trip to a space outside the city
- Try gardening or nurturing plants in your home
- Sit outside or open the windows and listen to the birds
- Watch the moonrise and stargaze