It has long been proven that spending time outdoors in nature is beneficial to our psyche. With modern technology playing an ever-increasing part in out lives, many individuals are completely out of touch with nature and the great outdoors. This has been termed “Nature deprivation” - a lack of time in the natural world, and has unsurprisingly been associated with depression. Not only is the online world having a detrimental affect on our mental health, but studies have found that the risk of developing depression is 20% higher in urban dwellers than in those who live in the countryside.
When we’re so focused on technology, it’s easy to forget that there are countless beautiful nature spots dotted around our country. With lockdown restrictions slowly easing, everyone will benefit from getting some fresh air and discovering the joys of the great outdoors.
Need more convincing? Here are 6 benefits nature has on our mental wellbeing:
Reduced Stress Levels
In the world we live in today stress is unavoidable. Constant stress not only affects our mental health, but also affects our body. It has been shown to increase blood sugar and to increase the risk of heart disease. It is therefore important for us to have some down-time to rebalance life.
Walking in nature has a calming effect and is therefore one of the best ways of reducing stress levels. Walking and hiking also have positive physiological effects by increasing our heart rate, reducing blood pressure and ultimately reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Being near water has been shown to be especially soothing, so try a walk near the sea or by a beautiful river or lake.
A clearer mind
Hiking through a natural environment is far more effective than simply taking a stroll through the city, as it seems to reduce the effect on the part of the brain that mulls over the negatives in life . While this may not be a solution for your problems, it gives you time to process certain issues in an environment that’s free of synthetic distraction.
Getting outdoors, getting close to nature and exercising improves self-esteem as well as body image. One study asked people to exercise whilst looking at different environments, and found that looking at pleasant nature scenes improved self-esteem more than looking at urban scenes.
No matter what age, people who adventure outside have been found to have higher levels of self-esteem and feel that they can cope better with the stresses of modern life. Initiatives such as forest schools and outward-bound courses can help children and adolescents to develop more confidence, and older adults to deal wit the stresses of modern life.
Boosts the brain
Now more than ever, we are being bombarded by endless information and with constant demands for out attention, we are finding it difficult to focus for longer periods of time.
Research shows that individuals who spend less time with modern technology and more time in nature are up to 50% more creative when it comes to problem-solving tasks. It was also found that regular walkers and hikers have a better memory than those who don’t go out in to nature that often. Spending time in nature was also found to improve our ability to concentrate.
Improves our outlook on life
As humans we have a tendency to over-analyse our own negative emotions and experiences. A benefit of hiking is that we start focusing on what is around us and therefore reduces the likelihood that we ruminate over these experiences. A hike through nature is beneficial not just when it comes to improving our mood, but also has a positive impact on mental health issues such as stress and depression.
Mountains, beaches and forests grab our attention far more than the walls of the local gym, so it’s not hard to imagine that a walk through nature uplifts us and makes us feel so much happier.
Regular physical exercise can help so much with sleep. Going for a walk, a run or a hike in the afternoon or early evening, helps with relaxation. Exercising in nature not only helps sleep quality by improving our mood and wellbeing, but also by improving the immune and hormonal systems. Getting enough sleep also improves overall brain function – one more reason to put on those walking shoes and get outdoors.
Hopefully this article has inspired you to connect with nature more regularly. Whether it is a trip to the local park, hiking in the mountains or visiting one of the beautiful beaches along our coastlines, enjoy the great outdoors. If you are looking for inspiration, then look out for future articles that will give you ideas on where to visit.