The effects nature has on your mental health and wellbeing
In an ever increasing world of urbanisation, we need to think about the environment around us and how it might be affecting us. Most, if not all of us, are aware that an unpleasant environment can lead to an increase in stress and anxiety. And cause us to feel sad and helpless. But this can also lead to physiological issues such as increased blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and a declining immune system. Environments and the things that we see, hear and experience can affect our mood changes and our immune, nervous and endocrine system.
The majority of people, regardless of gender and age, would choose a natural setting to unwind. This can be anything from wooded areas, open grasslands, coastal areas, rivers…or even like some people I have the pleasure of knowing, on the edge of a mountain. And I mean, quite literally hanging off the edge of it. Settings such as these can help reduce feelings of anger, fear, stress, and increase those nice calming happy thoughts that make us smile from within. To feel better emotionally can help reverse all the things that a stressful environment can cause. A study in Mind found that 95% of people who were interviewed said that their mood improved whilst they were outside, resulting in a calmer and more balanced mind.
“Other studies by Ulrich, Kim and Cervinka show that time in nature or scenes of nature are associated with a positive mood, and psychological well-being, meaningfulness, and vitality” (Krentzer, M J. Larson, J”
A study which has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, involved two groups of people. All had heart rates, respiration rates, brain scans, and a questionnaire to fill in before and afterwards. Half of the group walked for 90 minutes in a grassy wood land with trees and shrubs. The other half had a busy four lane main road to walk along. They didn’t find much difference between the groups physiologically, but they did find changes in the brain. Nerve activity in the part of the brain which is associated with rumination (where compulsive repetitive negative thoughts take place) decreased in the nature candidates, compared to the urban ones.
“This finding is exciting because it demonstrates the impact of nature experience on an aspect of emotion regulation” (Jordan, R).
Access to natural areas for everyone is vital. With over half of the world’s population living in an urban setting already, it has been suggested that this can and will most probably rise to 70% in the next few decades. Studies show that city folk are 20% more likely to develop anxiety disorders, and 40% more likely, mood changes than rural folk. “Just as urbanisation and disconnection from nature have grown dramatically, so have mental disorders such as depression.” (Jordan, R).
So, get out there. Find that place where you find serenity, peace, tranquillity. Take in the sights, sounds and possibly smells that surround you. You can walk, run, cycle, ride, climb or even fly. For me it’s cycling, running, walking, flying and going to the gym. The sights you see you shall forever remember. These make up happy memories and thoughts that can help us ground ourselves when the negativity creeps up. Make sure you give yourself that valuable time. Your whole family will benefit from it. You just need to find that special place.