Research has shown that nature can impact our mental health and well-being. Our environment can increase or decrease our stress levels, which then impacts our physical and mental health. Environmental stressors can make us feel anxious, depressed, helpless and more. These can manifest physically into higher blood pressure, increased heart rate, weaker immune system and other issues.
Being in nature can help to reverse these issues and make us feel better emotionally and in turn physically. Research has shown that having as little as even one plant in the room can reduce stress and anxiety! If you live in an area where access to an abundance of trees or open space is not possible, a green living space can increase your mental health.
“Screen time”, the hours spent in front of a tv screen or computer screen, can also be very harmful to our mental and emotional state. Too much screen time has been associated with depression and, not surprisingly, a loss of empathy for others. This is a result of isolation and lack of contact with others and nature.
Being in nature can also improve creativity. Taking a break and going to the park or the beach can cause a creativity surge or a ‘eureka’ moment. Research has shown there is a connection between nature and an improvement in working memory and decreased anxiety.
Even a visual image of nature can be beneficial. One specific study has shown that patients recovering from surgery who had an image of nature on their wall, as opposed to a blank cement wall, recovered faster after surgery. This is due to the fact that the visual aspect of nature is relaxing to our minds.
Sounds of nature show similar benefits. Another study where participants were played recorded sounds of nature, they were shown to have lower stress levels than those who were not. Playing sounds of nature at home when relaxing can help us unwind from a long day.
As we age, typically quality of life is reduced due to medial issues and/or mental health concerns. Nature has been shown to improve the quality of life for seniors in a positive way.
One possible reason why nature improves our health, is due to our need to connect with nature and that our separation from it is rather recent. Only over the last 200 years have humans been living in mega cities so far removed from a natural environment.
There are many different techniques at our disposal to improve mental health, however nature is an often overlooked one. Having greater contact with nature is generally accessible to most of us and it does not cost anything.