Mental Health Benefits of Nature

forest bathing, woman hipster contemplating nature in dark green forest

Take the time to smell the roses. Chances are you’ve heard this quote about spending some enjoy the simple pleasures of taking a stroll through a field, garden, or any form of nature. If you’ve ever walked through a park or forest, you can attest to some of their benefits.

While these benefits may be intrinsic and felt, researchers are trying to understand why spending time in nature affects mental health.

Mental Health has been at the forefront of medical research due to its pervasiveness among children and adults. While research has been around for some time, mental health is becoming less of a taboo topic, and more people are coming forward with their mental health problems.

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Benefits of Nature

Research shows that spending time in nature affects overall mental health. Below are some of the mental health benefits of nature.

Boosting Mood

A few minutes a day taking a walk in nature has been shown to boost moods. In a 2015 Stanford study, participants were asked to take a 90-minute stroll. Half of them walked in a natural area while the other half strolled in an urban area.

The study examined how settings affected ruminations–the ability to think repetitively about a negative aspect in one’s life. Researchers measured participants’ brain activity and heart rate before and after the stroll.

The results show that participants who strolled through a natural area experienced less brain activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex. The subgenual prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain where emotions are regulated and the most affected area by bipolar disorder and depression.

While researchers didn’t hypothesize why they saw this trend, it’s a clear indication that spending time in nature helps one’s mental and physical health.

Physiological Benefits

Spending time in nature can provide physiological and psychological benefits for many people. Aside from getting a dose of Vitamin D and breathing, which are well-documented, researchers have found other health benefits that are more difficult to explain.

A 2010 study based in Korea showed that people who spent time in nature lowered their blood pressure levels, decreased heart rate, and reduced anxiety and stress. Other studies have mirrored these results and claim lessened muscle tension and decreasing migraines and headaches.

Some studies show that just experiencing nature through photos or videos can produce similar effects.

Treating Mental Disorders

Exposing patients to natural environments is an essential aspect of mental health treatment facilities, often incorporating walkways or natural paths adjacent to the center. Monasteries would build their cloisters on land surrounded by greenery and natural forests.

Multiple studies have shown that patients with ADHD, schizophrenia, and Major Depressive Disorder have experienced significantly reduced symptoms after spending 50 minutes walking through nature.

Final Thoughts

Nature can be an effective way to treat your symptoms and promote good mental health. However, it should not be a substitute for traditional therapy but should be a part of your mental health journey. If you have symptoms of mental disorders or feel anxious or depressed, reach out to a licensed therapist today.

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