How does being in nature improve your mental health?
May 10th to the 16th is Mental Health Awareness Week!
The theme this year is ‘nature and the environment’. This year’s theme was chosen because during the pandemic millions of people turned to nature for comfort and relaxation. The Mental Health Foundation discovered in their research that going for walks outside was one of the top coping strategies for those who were feeling stressed and lonely, and 45% of people reported that being in green spaces was vital for their mental health. During lockdown, more people also tried to be close to nature within their homes as websites that showed footage from webcams of wildlife had an increase in hits of over 2000%.
There are many benefits that being outside in nature can have on our mental health. Here are just a few of them:
Being outside decreases stress
A simple thing that you could try if you are feeling stressed at work is to have regular, short breaks from your screen where you spend a few minutes outside getting some fresh air. In one of their studies Mind found that 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced. So the next time you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or taking a call, why not use this time to take a moment to enjoy being outside (if the weather allows this).
Exercising makes you feel more productive
One of the most beneficial ways to improve mental health is doing more exercise, especially if that exercise involves being outside. There are many studies that have shown that doing physical activity can improve mental health by increasing our feel-good hormones, improving our sleep quality, decreasing anxiety and giving us more energy throughout the day. Exercise doesn’t always have to be vigorous or take up a lot of time, simply going for a walk before/after work or on your lunch is an easy way to be more active. Joining a local exercise class is also a great way to meet new people who have similar interests to you, and this is also a way to reduce loneliness. You could also do a free home workout on YouTube or a Zoom class if you don’t have access to a gym.
Looking after animals or plants improves your mood
Sometimes it can be hard to spend more time in nature, especially if you live in a city. A great option if this is the case is to bring nature to you by creating more green spaces in your living environment. A way to do this is by adding more plants to your home which you have to look after, doing this will give you a sense of purpose and also add more life to your home or workspace. If you have a garden, allotment or balcony, think about how you can make the most of it. Grow flowers, plants or vegetables, get a bird feeder and take in the sights and sounds around you. If you have a pet then prioritise spending time with them, if not then perhaps you have a friend or family member who needs help looking after theirs? Offering to walk someone’s dog whilst they’re at work can be a great way to boost your mood whilst also helping someone out who might need it.
Nature helps you be more creative
Not only does being outside make us more productive, but it can also help us be more creative. If you’re ever experiencing a ‘creative block’ then spending more time in nature can help you come up with new ideas which can be useful if you’re struggling with a task that requires you to think strategically or implement new processes. The next time you’re struggling to think of new ideas, try sitting outside for a while whilst you think and try making a few notes.
Nature can help boost brain function
According to the Journal of Environmental Psychology, just twenty minutes a day outside is all you may need in order to allow your brain to refresh, restore and start functioning again at its highest. Being outside reduces fatigue and improves your energy levels which is important if you are working longer hours or doing a late shift. Increased brain function is important when completing analytical tasks so spending some time outside may be beneficial before beginning tasks of this nature.
For Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation has created a short video to show the benefits that being in nature can have on our mental health. Please watch their video below: