If you’ve ever been stuck inside and felt anxious or depressed, only to go outside and feel a sense of relief, you’re not alone. Biophilia, or a love of life/nature, is something that is genetically predetermined. It supposes that our attraction to nature is genetically predetermined. But what exactly are the full mental health benefits of surrounding yourself in nature, and how can you do it more often?
The Benefits of nature
Being in nature can reduce anger, fear and stress, and increases pleasant feelings. This exposure also has a physical impact, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It may even reduce mortality, according to scientists Stamatakis and Mitchell. You can also get some of these benefits from exposing yourself to nature indoors. If you don’t think you have enough time to get to the nature preserve, spend some time indoors tending to your house plants or looking at the garden across the street. You’ll be trending up in no time.
In a world filled with so much going on, it can be easy to get caught up in life. Spending time in nature allows us to reflect and focus on what matters. When surveyed about their state of mind after spending time outside, 95% reported an improvement in mood going from depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced. If you find yourself feeling the same, a quick walk outside or additional exposure throughout the day can work wonders for your state of mind.
Tips to realize the benefits of nature on mental health
Now that we’ve seen just exactly what nature can do for you, how can you make time in your day to experience it?
Habit Stacking: Sometimes the easiest way to do something new is to make it a part of something you’re already doing. With habit stacking, you can add putting on your walking shoes as part of your morning routine. This cue will increase your odds of going for a walk in nature. You can also modify your morning commute route to drive by a park, also increasing your chances of getting out in the elements.
The Double Dip: Thankfully, going for a walk in nature is something that you can do while also doing other things (listening to a podcast, talking to a friend). You don’t need to be fully present to reap the full benefits of nature, you just need to be out in it long enough. So the next time you find yourself on the phone for 30 minutes, get outside and go for that walk.
Accountability Partner: Find a friend that also likes nature and make a routine of going to a nature preserve or park every month. Having a partner to help you wander nature with will 1) increase the likelihood that you actually go (Not having an accountable partner to help a person accomplish their goal is one reason 92% of people did not accomplish their New Year’s resolution) and 2) will help you build improved social connections as you accomplish your goal together.
Nature and mental health
From the swaying trees to the fraying grass, nature has an uncanny ability to take our minds off of things, giving us a chance to reset our perspective around a common anchor. When it comes to improving mental health, in a world that has programmed us to go, go, go, sometimes the wooded trail that we travel is more than a path. Sometimes it’s the destination itself.