The benefits of nature for our mental health

There’s something to be said for just getting out in nature and experiencing the natural world in all its glory, with many studies showing a strong correlation between spending time in the natural environment and our physical and mental wellbeing.

For instance, spending time in nature can help you recover from mental stress and has a immunising effect on any future stresses, so can help you become more resilient in that respect. It’s also been shown to improve concentration, self esteem and mood.

So spending more time in the natural world is definitely something that we should all take more seriously to improve our mental health, but what is it about the natural world that has these positive effects?

Well the first thing about spending time in the natural world is that it switches up our peripheral vision. So for many of us, we spend most of our time in urban and enclosed environment where we’re surrounded by technology. Mobile phones, computers, tablets all competing for our attention in a very focused and direct way.

But as soon as we step into the natural our world, inside of this focused and direct way of seeing things, our peripheral vision is more wide angle. In other words, we automatically become more spatially aware of the world around us which helps take us out of the four walls inside our head.

In this way, spending time in the natural world has a very mindful effect on us, calming us down and helping us regain contact with the here and now.

And when we’re in this more open and aware state of mind, it gives us more time to reflect helping us feel more connected socially as well as giving us the space to find a sense of purpose. It’s also common for us to start experiencing positive childhood memories when we’re in this state of mind.

So there’s plenty of benefits to taking ourselves out of that urban and technological environment that we’re surrounded by, and back out into the natural world – to really reconnect with our natural roots as biological beings.

Now there’s many different things that we can do to spend more time in the natural world, and some of these things are just simply about getting out into nature

You might want to consider going for a country walk or visiting a local park. You could also head down to the beach if there’s one near where you live. At the end of the day it’s about getting out of the urban environment so just go wherever is most pleasing to you.

And the great thing about all these suggestions is that they’re free and have no side effects. Simply, you will feel better by getting out into nature.

Another suggestion that’s worth mentioning is to try out meditation when you’re out in nature where it can be easier to relax and switch off from the outside world.

But besides just getting out into nature, you may also want to consider taking up natured centred hobbies. How about gardening or bird watching? Of course not everyone has a garden so see if there are any gardening or bird watching groups to join. If gardening and bird watching is not for you, perhaps get involved in a conservation group.

Now for those that are really busy, or just don’t get much opportunity to get outside especially if you’re living in an apartment, see if you can bring some of the natural world into your living space. So head down to your local garden centre and see what house plants you can bring into your home.

Perhaps change up where your furniture is located to take more advantage of the outside world. Can be as simple as just turning your chair around to face a window so you get a nice view of the sky. You could also listen to some relaxing nature sounds to bring more of the outside in.

Now these might seem very insignificant things to do but when you combine them with many other ways to reconnect with nature, they all really do have their benefits.

But with this all being said, I do want to point out that if you’re somebody who is struggling from clinical depression or has acute anxiety then getting out and immersing yourself in nature is unlikely to work alone.

No one treatment will work for everyone, but it is still something that you can add to your own mental health tool box. This is especially true given what we know about the benefits of nature for our mental health.

We’re twice as likely to be distressed in an urban environment then a rural one, so definitely give it a shot, and see how you can spend a bit more time in the natural world.