Feeling stressed out or overwhelmed? Ditch the four walls and take a walk in the park! Trust us, Mother Nature has some major mental health benefits up her sleeve. In fact, research has shown that spending time in nature can help to reduce stress, improve mood, and boost overall well-being (1).
But how exactly does nature have such a positive impact on our mental health? One theory is that being in nature allows us to disconnect from the distractions and demands of daily life and simply be present in the moment. This mindfulness can help to reduce stress and improve mood (2). In fact, research has shown that even just a few minutes of mindfulness meditation in a natural setting can have a positive impact on stress levels and cognitive function (3).
Nature can also have a calming effect on the mind and body. The sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors can all contribute to a sense of relaxation and well-being. In one study, participants who spent time in a natural setting reported feeling more revived, more attentive, and less tense and depressed compared to those who spent time in an urban setting.
But it's not just about taking in the sights and sounds – being physically active in nature can also have mental health benefits. Outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, or even just taking a leisurely walk can all help to reduce stress and improve mood (2). Plus, the physical activity itself has its own mood-boosting benefits.
So next time you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, try taking a break and spending some time in nature. Whether it's a short walk in the park or a full-blown hike in the mountains, the mental health benefits are sure to follow. And the best part? You don't have to go far to reap the rewards – even just a small green space in an urban setting can have positive effects on well-being (4). So why not try incorporating some nature into your daily routine? Your mind (and body) will thank you.
(1) National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2021). The Great Outdoors: A Prescription for Health. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/community/outdoor-activity/index.cfm
(2) Bratman, G. N., Hamilton, J. P., Hahn, K. S., Daily, G. C., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(28), 8567-8572.
(3) Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science, 19(12), 1207-1212.
(4) Kang, S., Park, B. J., & Tsunetsugu, Y. (2017). The effect of forest therapy on human mental health: A meta-analysis. Environmental Science and Technology, 51(1), 538-545.