Nature and Mental Health

Environment can play a huge roll in a person’s emotional well-being.  An unpleasant environment can often evoke feelings of anxiety, sadness, or helplessness.  Being in nature, however, can result in the reduction of fear, anxiety, and stress.  Even viewing pictures of nature can produce this calming effect.  In a study done by Mind, it was found that 95% of people surveyed reported that their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced. Ulrich, Kim, and Cervinka all conducted studies that indicate that time in nature or scenes of nature are associated with a “positive mood, and psychological well-being, meaningfulness, and vitality.

Nature is essentially “easy on our minds,” says Yannick Joye, PhD.  Since nature is repetitive, it can have calming qualities that soothe the brain. Natural sounds can also be soothing; in Japan, taking in the forest atmosphere, known as “forest bathing,” is encouraged to people who are suffering from  high stress and anxiety as well as depression.

Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

So what can you do to get some of these positive mood-enhancing benefits of nature?

  • Make a conscious effort to spend time outside in nature
  • Consider having a houseplant; research done in hospitals, offices, and schools has found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety
  • Limit screen-time
  • Encourage children to play outdoors rather than indoors

If you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed or stressed, don’t hesitate to call us and set up an appointment, we are here to support you!

Sources:

Cervinka, R., Röderer, K., & Hefler, E. (2012). Are nature lovers happy? On various indicators of well-being and connectedness with nature. Journal of Health Psychology, 17(3), 379-388.

Joye Y, Bolderdijk JW. An exploratory study into the effects of extraordinary nature on emotions, mood, and prosociality. Frontiers in Psychology; 2015; 5: 1577.

Kim, T. (2010). Human brain activation in response to visual stimulation with rural and urban scenery pictures: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study Science of the Total Environment, 408(12), 2600.

Mind Organization. (2007). Ecotherapy: The green agenda for mental health. UK: Mind Publications.

Ulrich, R. S., Simons, R. F., Losito, B. D., Fiorito, E., Miles, M. A., & Zelson, M. (1991). Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 11(3), 201-230.

University of Minnesota: How does Nature impact Mental Health?

Blog Post by: Sarah Warner

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