Ecopsychology studies our psychological relationship with nature – and there’s a growing body of research evidence to back up anecdotal claims that being in green spaces is good for you. Immersing yourself in nature is shown to be especially good for your mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Here’s just some of the outdoor activities that science shows can lift your mood…
Walking in the park
It’s not just country dwellers who benefit from being in nature. If you have a city-based lifestyle then even spending 20 to 30 minutes walking in the park can help to soothe your stress. Researchers at the University of Michigan say a half-hour walk in the park at lunchtime can reduce cortisol levels (the hormone linked to your stress) by 10% – and it can boost your memory by 20%. A connection with your surroundings can play its part in helping to lower workplace anxiety.
Forest bathing is the latest wellbeing trend to come from Japan. The theory is that spending in a forest – walking through it, looking at it, breathing the air, soaking up the atmosphere – can help to reduce stress levels. Italian researchers found that forest bathing could reduce stress biomarkers (including cortisol). Even the thought of spending time in a forest – just the mental image of being there – can help to reduce stress levels. A review by academics at Seoul National University also found that “forest therapy is an emerging and effective intervention for decreasing adults’ depression levels”.
Psychologists at the University of Essex found that people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – including people from military backgrounds– were able to reduce their symptoms by going fishing. The calmness and focus that fishing offers has helped to reduce blood pressure, help the person feel connected with their surroundings, and as a result their mood is boosted.
Taking a moment to notice nature around you can boost your wellbeing, says a researcher from the University of British Columbia. In a study, participants were asked to photograph any nature (non-human-made objects) they encountered around them – which could be a flower in a vase, a tree by a bus stop, a little bird on the window ledge – and to note how it made them feel. Their levels of happiness, wellbeing and connectedness to other people was shown to be higher as a result.
Some of the ways being in nature can support your mental health and emotional wellbeing…
The sensory experience is calming.
Listening to the birds, feeling the breeze, seeing the shapes and colours of nature, smelling the freshness of the great outdoors: all your senses become awakened but in a way that connects you with the natural world and allows you to relax and enjoy life.
You ground yourself more deeply.
Walking or sitting in nature means you’re more connected with the earth – a strong antidote to all the tech and stress of everyday life.
You’re present and in flow.
It’s hard to be in nature and not be mindful. They say to remember to stop and smell the flowers. In a green space it’s a lot easier to slow down, to notice wildlife and blooms, and to be aware of yourself in present and what you’re experiencing. A vast difference from checking your emails and rushing to complete the next thing on your to-do list.
You focus on something bigger than yourself.
Looking at the vastness of the sky, the fields and the trees can help put your everyday worries and anxieties into perspective.
The above tips are for people with mild mental health issues. If you feel that you’d like professional support with the issues you’re currently facing then get in touch and we’ll match you with a therapist who can help. Call 020 8673 4545 or email [email protected] to book your first appointment. We have sessions available seven days a week at our Clapham and Tooting centres.