The Benefits of Nature on Mental Health
Nature is a source of beauty, peace, and calmness. For a long time, people have known that nature can help alleviate stress and anxiety and create peace of mind. It’s common to say, ‘get some fresh air’ for anyone who needs to feel better both physically and mentally. Research evidence shows that the quality of our relationship with nature has direct and a positive impact on our well-being.
In this blog, let’s discuss the benefits of nature on mental health and why it is essential to make time to connect with nature regularly.
What does Nature mean to You?
The definition of nature is the physical world and everything in it (such as plants, animals, mountains, oceans, stars, etc.) that is not made by people.
Nature has a broad definition but a unique meaning for everyone. It can mean green spaces like parks, woodland or forests, and blue spaces with water like rivers, wetlands, or beaches. It could also mean a row of trees on an urban street, a private garden, flower or vegetable patches and even indoor plants or window boxes.
We would notice the beauty of nature through a breathtaking sunset, patterns of ripples in a river, in a birdsong or touching the bark of a tree. Some smell flowers, feel the soil on a barefoot walk or paddle the waves in an ocean. There are countless ways to experience nature and the experience is distinctive to each person.
What is “connectedness” ?
Connectedness refers to feeling socially or emotionally connected to each other. The sense of belonging and being part of an entity. Researchers use the term “connectedness” to describe the ideal relationship. It is an essential aspect of human well-being and is linked to positive outcomes, including better mental health, greater resilience, and increased life satisfaction.
Connectedness to nature refers to how we relate to our natural surroundings and experience nature. A strong connection with nature means feeling a close relationship or an emotional attachment to our natural surroundings.
How to Connect with Nature
Connecting to nature is a personal experience and there is no right way to do it. It is best to experiment with different activities. Go with what you enjoy, and what works well with your lifestyle. We collected some pointers to help you with the start.
- Start a small patch of a garden or buy some house plants. Nurturing plants is a great way to connect with nature and cultivate a sense of responsibility and care for living things. You will learn how to recycle waste and make plant food, how to recycle water etc which will lead you to become a conscious consumer.
- Practice eco-friendly habits: Try and reduce your impact on the environment by recycling waste, reusing, conserving, and choosing sustainable products.
- Learn about local wildlife: Take some time to learn about the animals and plants that live in your surroundings. Notice that bird song as you enjoy your coffee, and observe the bees, birds and butterflies visiting your garden. You can also attend guided nature walks or bird watching. These activities will teach you to appreciate nature and learn more about it every day.
- Spend time outdoors as part of your daily or weekly routine: Whether it's a park, a forest, a beach, or your own backyard, spending time outside can help you feel more connected to nature.
- Try outdoor activities: Whether it's cycling, camping, kayaking, or rock climbing, outdoor activities can be a fun way to experience nature and challenge yourself at the same time.
- Practice mindfulness: You can do this by paying attention completely to the present moment. You can practice mindfulness while you are in nature by observing the sights, sounds, and smells around you.
Benefits of Connecting with Nature
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety affect millions of people worldwide. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can help reduce stress and anxiety levels significantly. The sights and sounds of nature have a calming effect on the mind, which helps to reduce the production of stress hormones. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that spending just 20 minutes in nature can significantly reduce stress levels.
Many resorted to nature during the Covid-19 pandemic as a coping mechanism when they were forced to isolate themselves from their loved ones.
Improves Sleep Quality
Sleep is essential for mental and physical wellbeing. People struggle with sleep problems such as insomnia and sleep apnea. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can improve sleep quality. Exposure to natural light during the day helps regulate the body's natural sleep-wake cycle, which can help improve sleep quality at night. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that spending time in nature can improve sleep quality in adults.
Reduces Symptoms of Depression
Depression is a mental disease that affects many people, worldwide. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can help reduce symptoms of depression. Nature has a soothing effect on the mind, which can help reduce negative thoughts and feelings associated with depression. A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that spending time in nature can improve the mood of a person which is directly correlated to reducing symptoms of depression.
Improves Self Esteem
Spending time in nature can also boost and improve your self-esteem. The vibrant colours, the fresh air and the sunlight can help lift your spirits. Additionally, being surrounded by natural beauty can give you a sense of purpose and help you feel more connected to the world around you. A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that spending time in nature can improve self-esteem.
Boosts Cognitive Function
Do you know that there is research evidence that shows that spending time in nature can improve cognitive functions such as attention and memory? Being in nature allows the mind to relax and recharge, which can help improve mental clarity and focus. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that being in nature for just one hour can improve cognitive function.
Challengers for Londoners/ city dwellers
Your attempt to connect to nature may not be as smooth as you want. London's ever-changing weather can be both frustrating and exciting (depending on your perception of the excitement of course). Experiencing three seasons in a single day is not an uncommon occurrence. Despite its challenges, London's unique climate has become an integral part of its charm, adding to the city's character, and providing a unique experience for visitors and locals alike. Being ready with the right clothing and essentials is always a good idea as you journey outdoors.
Do You have access to High-quality Nature?
Whilst nature can be found anywhere, high-quality nature spaces, which are most likely to help support good mental health, are not available equally to everyone in the UK.
This is a more complicated picture than just how far we live from a high-quality nature space. We discovered and journaled about the Best Beaches in Cornwall and Devon and Best Country Walks and Wild Swims in our previous blog posts. We hope you will make good use of them.
Our collections always offer a chance to take in the wonderful nature, heave a deep breath of fresh, country air, and escape the speed of change for a moment, regardless of the elements and environment around you.
We would love to see your experiences and any exciting treks you’ve explored and how you enjoyed connecting to nature! Tag us @d_robeoutdoors or use #drobeoutdoors to share. We await to hear from you!