Spending time in the great outdoors of nature’s green space can benefit both your physical and mental well-being. Nothing drove that home to many, more than the pandemic.
Here in the Poconos, city dwellers made their escape to our lush, mountain landscape in droves over this past year. And it's no surprise that they learned the healing abilities that nature has on your mental health.
For instance, exercising outdoors, growing flowers or food, being around animals are all examples of positive effects that may result thanks to nature.
Reasons Why Nature is Good for Your Mental Health:
• Improves your physical health
• Improves your mood
• Reduces anxiety, anger, or stress
• Improves your self-esteem and confidence
• Helps you be more active
• Helps you make new connections
• Provides peer support
• Helps you take a time out and relax
Nature and Mental Health’s Connection
Research into ecotherapy has shown to help with depression that’s mild to moderate. This is thought to be the result of the combination of social contact, physical activity, and being outside.
Spending time in nature helps with depression and anxiety. Vitamin D from being outdoors helps lift that brain fog, which is why Light Therapy comes highly recommended during the fall and winter for those suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder.)
You could buy a light plate - but why not go outside where sunshine and fresh air are free?
Four Reasons Why Connecting with Nature is Crucial to Your Overall Well-being
Nature has Calming Effects
Nature has long been known for its calming effects on the mind. Nature’s beauty and serenity creates a sense of peace that is hard to find in the hustle and bustle of life. Thus, by spending time in nature you will be reducing mental fatigue and everyday stress.
During the warmer months, going barefoot in nature is even more beneficial as it helps you feel connected to the earth, which reduces anxiety and stress. Ever walk on the beach? Then you know what I mean.
Nature Reduces Symptoms of Depression
Researchers, scientists, and even nature enthusiasts have gained a lot of interest in nature as a form of therapy. Connecting with nature is beneficial to ease the symptoms of depression, as being in nature promotes gratitude and mindfulness.
Being in a natural environment helps to clear the mind of tension, anger, and worry. Not only that, but nature encourages a healthy lifestyle - which is another factor in battling depression and stress.
Exercise makes you physically stronger, increases your energy levels, and makes you feel happier. This is because physical activity produces endorphins, which are the body’s natural chemicals that give you a mental boost.
There's a reason they say to go for a walk when you are angry or stressed.
Sleep is Improved by Natural Light
If you’re experiencing poor quality sleep, stress and anxiety are usually the culprit. When you spend time in nature, your body gets exposed to natural light - doing wonders for your sleep! Natural light helps to improve sleep patterns and your natural body clock - ensuring that once you awake, you’re feeling rejuvenated!
I always find that leaving a gap in my light blocking curtains in my bedroom helps the natural light seep in as the sun rises, creating a natural alarm clock in the brain. Gently waking up is sure better than being startled by a buzzing alarm clock.
Nature Encourages Social Connection
Social connection is vital to your mental health, and by going out into nature you’re forced to unplug and connect with people (or animals) around you instead.
There are endless opportunities for you to meet and engage with people in nature-based activities and sports (and are safe during a pandemic.) Thus, social inclusion is encouraged which helps create stronger social communities of people.
This reduces a person’s feeling of loneliness and isolation, and provides them with a sense of belonging instead.
That connection can also come from all of the creatures, big and small, that make their homes among the trees, the plants and the dirt.
For example, when I moved from the suburbs to the mountains 18 years ago, I learned the change of season from the animals here.
When Spring would be here any day - a bird would tweet literally at the same time an owl would hoot in sync. There would be times when this would happen mid-March, and others when it would be the beginning of April. Each time 100% correct, as the weather would get warmer and winter weather would become a distant memory.
Then there is the deer in September. The thickness and timing of their coats would tell me how early (or late) winter was coming, and if it would be a mild or deep freeze kind of winter.
This type of connection to the animals and nature has no doubt improved my well-being.
So when you are feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or even angry, step outside and see just how much better you will feel after 30 minutes outdoors.