When we step outside and take a deep breath of fresh air — one uninhibited by city smog and fumes — we immediately feel refreshed. We know that spending time outside is good for us and it’s likely that many of us could spend more time outdoors. But did you know that nature can have beneficial and healing effects for mental health conditions? Here are some ways that it can.
Nature and Anxiety
Spending time in nature has stress-reducing benefits which certainly help to relieve symptoms of mental health conditions, particularly for those experiencing anxiety. One study links this to the concept of “biophilia” or the connection between humans and nature. Nurturing this connection allows you to relax physically, connect to your senses and bring awareness into the world around you, rather than focus on the stress in your mind.
Nature and Depression
Being out in the sunshine and getting fresh air may make us feel good, but studies show that spending time in nature can actually counter the symptoms of depression. In fact, spending 90 minutes walking outside in a non-urban setting decreases activity in the brain that’s typically linked to depression and patterns of negative thinking. This was compared to walking 90 minutes in an urban setting, which did not have the same effects. Therefore, it’s not simply the physical activity that provided these positive benefits, but the time spent in a natural setting.
Nature and ADHD
For individuals living with ADHD, nature can also have some healing effects. While exercise in general helps children focus more, one study found that outdoor or “green” activities left children in an even more focused, relaxed and calm state. Children who spent time outside experienced milder symptoms that those who spent time in man-made play structures.
So how can you and your family make time to be outside? Rain or shine, try to plan a weekly family hike or venture out of the city. Plan family picnics, an annual family camping trip or encourage your children to participate in outdoor sports. Limiting screen time and encouraging outdoor playtime is also a great way to give your children the opportunity to benefit from nature and all of its healing qualities.
Feature Image: randihausken