How Nature Positively Affects Our Mental Health

Connecting with Nature is the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week on 10-16 May 2021 – with the aim to inspire more people to connect with nature and notice the impact that this connection can have for their mental health.

During lockdown, millions of us turned to nature for our daily exercise. According to The Mental Health Foundation, half of people in the UK said that being in nature was a favoured way to cope with the stress of the pandemic.

Excessive screen time can leave us feeling over-stimulated, stressed and has been associated with low mood and anxiety. By being in the fresh air, surrounded by nature away from artificial light, TV, phones and computer screens – and being in a place where we are connected to nature is vital for our mental health.

A report taken from a sample of 20,000 adults in the UK found that people who had spent at least two hours in nature in a week reported significant health and wellbeing benefits, this time could be in a single session or spread out over the week. This shows even a small amount of time each day contributes greatly to our emotional wellbeing.

Just a simple walk in a park or going into your garden regularly will help your emotional wellbeing.  The key is to focus on the outdoor places that you find you get the most pleasure from and make sure you incorporate nature into your daily life.

By being surrounded by nature it helps calm the mind, improves concentration and problem solving. It also helps alleviate depression, stress and anxiety and reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response.

Researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people after they walked in either a natural or rural environment. The report found that those who walked in a natural setting had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is active during rumination – this causes a continuous loop of negative thoughts. Breathing fresh air regulates your levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Natural light also reduces stress levels and sunlight increases your levels of serotonin (the feel-good hormone).

In a similar study, participants were given a memory test, then half of the group took a nature walk, and the other half walked around a city. Both groups did the memory test again, the nature group results had improved by 20%, the city walk group did not consistently improve.

How Nature Improves our Mental Wellbeing

  • Natural light reduces stress levels.
  • Sunlight increases your levels of serotonin (the feel-good hormone).
  • By being surrounded by nature it helps calm the mind, improves memory concentration and problem solving.
  • Being more present can help alleviate worry and anxiety. Nature distracts us from busy thoughts and gets us connected to the here and now.
  • The sounds of nature can reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which soothes the body’s fight-or-flight response.

Nature distracts us from busy thoughts and gets us connected to the here and now. Making a conscious effort to walk outside in a natural environment is greatly beneficial for our emotional wellbeing, just a small amount of time each day contributes to our mental health.

Mental Health Awareness Week on 10-16 May 2021 – with the aim to inspire more people to connect with nature and notice the impact that this connection can have for their mental health. Find out how you can get involved with Mental Health Awareness week here.

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