Whether you’re a passionate hiker or enjoy the occasional trip to the beach, nature likely has a calming effect on you. And this isn’t a coincidence. The mental health benefits of nature are backed by science, so you’re enjoying some major benefits every time you breathe in fresh air.
This guide will break down just how living close to nature can benefit your mental health and what you can do if you live further from nature than you would like.
How can nature benefit your mental health?
While time in nature might not be the cure-all for your mental health, it can be a great addition to therapy and other methods your doctor recommends. Trees and fresh air can give you a little boost in the following ways.
- Reduces depression and anxiety: Research shows that spending time outdoors can actually ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. One study found that those who walked outdoors for 90 minutes in nature focused less on negative thoughts than subjects who walked in an urban setting. Being in nature can also reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, reduce your flight-or-fight response, and lower blood pressure.
- Boosts creativity: You might find that you think more clearly after a walk in the woods, and there’s a reason for that. Studies show that time in nature boosts cognitive ability, memory, and problem-solving skills. This could be linked in part to the benefits of reduced anxiety and increase of positive thoughts.
- Allows you to disconnect: In today’s busy world, nature allows you to unplug from distractions and be alone with your thoughts. This is why many mental health treatment centers, such as residential homes for troubled teens, are in natural environments. While spending time outdoors, your mind will have trees, rivers, birds, and other elements to focus on, giving you a break from your thoughts.
What if you don’t live near nature?
Not everyone can live near a national park or on acres of land. If you don’t have a piece of Ashe County NC real estate, you have plenty of ways to find nature in an urban environment. Studies show that even looking at a tree can benefit your mental health, so you can find ways to seek out these moments of calm.
- Find your closest park: You might not have stretches of forest outside of your door, but you likely live close to a park. Even a small urban park or a city street lined with trees can provide a brief escape during your day. Search around your city for these pockets of green, and try to visit these spaces as much as possible.
- Bring nature indoors: Many people don’t have yards to plant trees and gardens. However, you can surround yourself with nature right in your house or apartment. Purchase some houseplants and place them around your space. Even these small splashes of green can lift your mood.
- Enjoy fresh air in general: Remember that being outside doesn’t always involve a hiking trail or sprawling beach. Small adjustments in your day can allow more outdoor time and improve your mental health. Try walking to work in the fresh air a few times a week. Eat lunch outside your office whenever possible. These small increments of outdoor time allow you to look at trees, hear birds, and breathe some fresh air.
Because our society depends on technology more than ever, nature can seem like a luxury. However, exposure to the natural world might actually be necessary. Try to find a few opportunities this week to spend 10 minutes outdoors. You might be surprised by how these mindful moments turn your day around.