Nature and Mental Health
When was the last time you stepped outside and just took a deep breath? Allowed the busyness of your life, relationships, anxieties, to-do lists, and distractions to melt away. Have you been in nature lately? Did you know that we can use nature as a tool for healing?
Historically, humans and nature have had a symbiotic relationship. We have depended on one another. In our current culture it seems that we have some distance from nature that our ancestors did not have. What if we looked to our roots and reconnected with nature?
I recently had a friend share her healing encounter with nature. She described spending time in a forest one afternoon. She recalled looking up at the trees and being struck by both their strength and their peace. She observed how these trees have strong root systems and are immovable and yet their branches sway in the wind. They are flexible yet strong. She shared how as she observed this juxtaposition of strength and freedom from the trees, her mind began to make a connection to her own experiences. She shared how this metaphor from nature created a picture for her of her own ability to be free to express herself, like the branches moving in the wind, while also maintaining her strong root system in her values, relationships, and core beliefs.
In addition to being a great tool for creating therapeutic metaphors, nature itself can create a positive impact on our mood, can regulate our nervous system, improve immune function, and reduce anxiety. According to a study conducted by Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter, people who spend two hours a week in green spaces, regardless if it was all at once or broken up into increments, were substantially more likely to report good health a psychological wellbeing than those who did not. When we break that up it’s just over 15 minutes a day!
Some healthcare providers are even prescribing time in nature as a means to reduce the impact of chronic illnesses, increase mood and mental stability.
This is your encouragement to get outside and spend time in nature for your mental health!
For more information on Ecopsychology and the study mentioned in this post check out this article from the Yale School of the Environment.