In honor of Earth Day, I thought it might be fitting to talk about the role of nature in promoting mental health. Nature stirs our souls and imagination and brings beauty to our everyday lives.
But it turns out, nature also brings a slew of benefits to our mental and physical health. Anyone who knows me well, know that I love to garden! I love rolling up my sleeves and sinking my hands into the soil to create a beautiful flower canvas.
The Many Benefits of Spending Time in Nature
Research is now clearly indicating that spending time outdoors can have a positive impact on our health. Whether you bike, hike, garden, or simply sit under a tree enjoying the sights and sounds, time in nature has shown to reduce stress, slow heart rate, improve pain, lower cortisol, and stimulate the immune system by boosting the production of natural killer cells that fight disease and infection.
In addition, time outside means time in the sun, and THAT means getting a nice boost of vitamin D, which can do everything from preventing disease, make our bones and teeth stronger, and improve our mood.
Spend Time in Nature
No matter where you live whether rural, urban, suburban, apartment or single family dwelling you can include nature in your regular routine. A recent Healthline article identified various approaches to spending time in nature:
- Community gardening or farming. Gardening with neighbors on shared land offers the chance to grow your own produce, build relationships, and spend time working outdoors. Some programs also teach basic farming tasks like tending animals or crops.
- Wilderness or adventure therapy. This approach to mental health treatment teaches coping techniques and therapeutic skills to teens and young adults as they camp and hike in the wilderness with their peers.
- Park prescriptions. Increasing numbers of healthcare providers and mental health professionals are starting to recommend that people spend a specific amount of time each week visiting a park or pursuing other outdoor activities.
- Forest bathing. Slightly more than a walk in the park, this practice encourages the mindful use of your five senses as you ramble through forests or similarly tree-heavy settings.
- Animal-assisted therapy. Petting, playing, or working with animals like horses, dogs, and birds outdoors can offer another way to manage stress.
- Outdoor meditation and yoga. Yoga and meditation offer well-established benefits, but they might prove even more rewarding outside.
If you’d like to explore how nature can serve as a treatment option, please reach out to me.
- Raypole, C. (2020, August, 31) Ecotherapy and the healing power of nature. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/ecotherapy