Nature and Mental Health: Positive Growth Through Connection with Nature
Did you know that more than half of the world’s population lives in urban settings and that this number is expected to increase to 70 percent over the next few decades? With an increase in urbanization comes an equal and opposite disconnection from nature. Our relationship with nature is essential to our emotional, psychological, and physical health. Without natural surroundings, the chance of developing mental health issues increases exponentially.
Research has shown that 20 percent of city dwellers have a higher risk of anxiety disorders, and 40 percent have a higher risk of mood disorders than people in rural areas. How much we notice and appreciate nature has a profound impact on our stress levels and the way we experience pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, and reduced risk of psychiatric disorders.
Improve your Mood
Studies have shown that at least 2-hours a week spent in nature helps alleviate the symptoms of depression. Being outdoors encourages healthy physical activity, which is a major factor in battling depression. Not only does exercise increase your energy levels, but it also makes you happier by producing endorphins.
Spending time in nature can support cognitive function in the brain. Cognitive functions relate to intellectual activity, thinking, reasoning, and a person’s ability to remember. One study concluded that nature improves cognitive function by:
- Boosting concentration levels
- Increasing the ability to pay attention
- Lowering stress levels
- Increasing the desire to spend more time in nature
“Nature” can take on many shapes, sizes, and colors. It can mean green spaces, like parks or forests, or blue spaces, like lakes, rivers, and beaches. It can include trees in an urban setting, a garden, or even indoor plants. Your goal should be to expose yourself to nature for at least 2-hours a week. You can be alone, or with friends or loved ones. Whether you want to practice self-care or avoid mental health disorders, spending time in nature can help.
Of course, spending time in nature is not an effective standalone treatment for severe mental health disorders—it’s more a way to support the therapeutic process, and help you maximize the impact of any medications or other pharmacological depression treatments you’re already using. Nature is an especially great way to support ketamine therapy.