How Spending Time in Nature Can Benefit Your Mental Health

Guest article by Cloe Matheson

Spending time in nature is good for all of us and should be one of our highest priorities. The beneficial effects of nature aren’t too difficult to obtain. Even just looking at gorgeous, oxygen-giving indoor plants can help us feel happier – and going outside can help us relax almost instantly after a long day at home or the office.

In a world where mental illness rates seem to be skyrocketing, and it feels like stress is just a side effect of our busy jobs, it’s more important than ever to appreciate Mother Nature. While getting into nature isn’t a quick fix for serious mental illnesses, it can certainly help improve symptoms in many cases.  To make the most of everything nature offers us to improve your mental health, try the following ideas:

Go barefoot

Our ancestors walked barefoot, but these days, we wear shoes for most of the time we spend outdoors, which can cause problems – there’s emerging research to suggest that going barefoot can help our health, so channel your ancestors and kick off those shoes once in a while. You might like to play a game of football or go for a walk on the beach without your shoes and note how you feel afterwards – it’s likely you’ll feel much more connected to nature.

Walk where you can

While you can walk around a city, there’s nothing quite like going for a soothing hike on the weekend, so if you’re lucky enough to live near hiking trails, take advantage of them!

If you don’t live near many walking trails, simply try to walk wherever you can. Even walking to work, where you’ll have a chance to admire the landscape while exercising, will benefit you more than taking transport every day. If your workplace is too far away, try walking during your lunch break.

Take up gardening

Gardening is an amazingly relaxing hobby, so why not start your own vegetable or herb garden? You’ll get to eat the produce you grow, observe nature’s magic up close, and know that you’re spending time doing something productive.

Play a sport

Many sports are played indoors, but there’s something hugely satisfying about playing your favourite game outdoors. The teamwork aspect of sports is great for mental health too – humans enjoy being part of a group, and there’s no team bonding experience more intense than winning a game.  Why not get a group of friends together and select the perfect location to play a sport? Somewhere with plenty of trees will give you a peaceful setting to relax after your games. Just remember to drink plenty of water and apply plenty of sunscreen!

The growing scientific field of ecotherapy focuses on the relationship between human beings and the natural environment, seeking to answer questions relating to nature’s ability to impact our wellbeing. If you’re interested, it might be worth researching ecotherapy and deciding how to apply its findings to your own life.

We could all do well to remember we are deeply connected with the natural world and that staying indoors all the time is unlikely to help our mental health. A link has been discovered between access to green spaces and lowered mortality rates – participants in a study who lived in built-up areas had significantly higher mortality rates than those who lived in greener areas. In another study, two-thirds of participants, when under stress, chose to spend time in nature over any other setting. These studies tell us it’s worth embracing nature and all it has to offer us!

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About the author: Cloe Matheson is a freelance writer from Dunedin, New Zealand with loads of great childhood memories of family overnight camping trips, where her love of the outdoors began. Discover out more of Cloe’s work on Tumblr.

Photos by Julia Caesar Unsplash and Ashim D’Silva Unsplash (under License).

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