Is There a Connection Between Nature and Wellbeing?
If you’re someone who spends any time out in nature, you’d know about the connection between nature and mental health.
Some of us may have found ourselves on the tail end of someone saying ‘the fresh air will do you the world of good’.
Feeling unwell? – get some fresh air.
Feeling frustrated or stressed? – get some fresh air.
Feeling down? – get some fresh air.
But is there actually anything to support that getting outside in nature will support or improve mental wellbeing?
What do we know about the connection between nature and wellbeing?
Recently studies have shown that spending time outside in natural environments can have a positive impact on a person’s mental health and feelings of wellbeing. From walks in the country away from the urban hussle of modern day life, to getting green fingered and spending time planting and growing your own plants or veg it appears mother nature actually does have a part to play in our overall wellness.
A survey carried out in 2018 by the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand highlighted that from the previous years Mental Health Week campaign to get people outside 95% of replies agreed that spending time outside made them feel good. These findings aren’t just commonplace for communities in New Zealand, a study carried out in England in 2019 showed a positive connection between increased feelings of health and wellness among people who spend 2 hours a week in natural settings. In addition, studies in the US have shown similar results connecting time in a natural environment with reduction in feelings of stress, anxiety and common mental health conditions such as depression. A study looking at college students found as little of 10 minutes a day of exposure to nature could reduce negative thoughts and feelings.
Using nature as a means to improve mental health is known as ecotherapy and is fast becoming noticed for its positive results for those who use it. Ecotherapy focuses on carrying out some sort of physical activity, like gardening, walking or farming within a setting that gets you close to nature. Usually it will be led by a therapist and involve some sort of therapeutic intervention such as CBT or talking therapy.
A structured ecotherapy sessions isn’t always needed to receive the benefits that nature can have on our health and wellbeing, although there is also a time and place for professional therapy there are some steps you can take to increase your exposure to nature and boost your feelings of wellbeing:
Do something outside everyday
From going for a 15 minute walk to sitting out in the garden with a coffee, try to get yourself outside every day. Not only will this give you a daily hit of Vitamin D which is good for overall health, it can provide some time for reflection, exercise or simply some peace and quiet, this can be increased by leaving your phone elsewhere during this time and trying to focus on the moment. Take notice of the sights, sounds and smells of the world around you can appreciate the smaller things.
Invest in some greenery
Gardening has been found to be beneficial to reducing stress, anxiety and increasing feelings of happiness. Unfortunately, we’re not all blessed to be green fingered but this doesn’t mean we’re unable to get some of the same benefits our garden savvy friends do. Invest in a house plant (for those who are complete novices cactus can be great to start out with) and build from there. If you don’t have a garden there are plenty of ways to build window sill planters. Check out this article from Home Stories A to Z on building stylish window sill planters.
Include friends and family
Spending time outside doesn’t have to be done on your own, invite a friend for a seaside walk or take the family for an adventure exploring a forest to build a den. Improving our wellbeing isn’t limited to quiet reflection (although it always has its place) the positive feelings from being in the moment with the ones we love and enjoying our time with each other can be priceless.
We’re confident that Mother Nature can help to improve mood and wellness and these are just a few ideas to help you to connect to her. Let us know if you have incorporated any of our nature tips into your daily life, or share how you get your natural boost on our online Facebook group A Change for Better!