Does Nature Actually Improve Mental Health? — It’s Personal

More and more, I’m interested in figuring out what exactly creates a sense of happiness and inner peace. I hear a lot about living off of the grid, nature retreats, these breathtaking hiking trips and I wonder if exposure to nature makes a real difference in a person’s mental health. Should we be adding components of nature to our self-care practices?

I decided that it was time for me to try my own form of nature therapy via Getaway’s tiny houses. The whole intention behind this one night stay was to unplug from technology and be present in the moment, with little distraction. I loved the mission behind Getaway since we’re so often attached to phones being stimulated or busying ourselves with myriad to-dos, making it hard to actually get to a place of presence and peace.

So, I packed two book bags and drove two hours to the Catskills where I spent less than 24 hours in the most quaint tiny house.

What I noticed upon arriving was this sense of awe. The sky looked beautiful, the cabin itself was sleek and simple, it was quiet and serene.

I spent the time there listening to music on a retro am/fm radio. I started a fire and roasted marshmallows. I made dinner on the stovetop. I read. I woke up the next morning and made coffee and oatmeal.

It felt amazing and like everything going on outside of that moment didn’t matter. I wasn’t rushing to meet a deadline or mindlessly scrolling through instagram. I felt more grounded in the moment. Things felt simple and slow, something I am not accustomed to.

This is just an anecdotal experience so I wanted to provide some evidence around nature and mental health.

Here are some key findings I think are worth noting:

  • 20 minutes spent sitting or walking in a setting that allows you to feel connected with nature has been shown to significantly reduce stress. *No reading, using your phone in any way or making conversations
  • 20-30 minutes allowed for the greatest reduction in cortisol (the stress hormone).
  • We intrinsically have a positive response to nature based on our evolution
  • Landscapes with a view of the water or vegetation will lessen negative thoughts in minutes
  • Studies have shown that when stressed people look at nature scenes vs urban landscapes, the nature scenes win out, reducing stress in the participants.

There’s a ton more research but I figured this would be enough to see that nature really does nurture our well-being.

So, to address my initial question, it looks like we should be adding nature to our self-care tool box.

If you live in a city, take the time to find spaces that connect you to nature. Go on a weekly or monthly hike. Take a walk on a tree-lined street. Find a park to sit in. Book a trip to Getaway if you are so inclined! You can rest easy knowing that you’re taking care of yourself.

Resources

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190404074915.htm

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/spend-time-in-nature-to-reduce-stress-and-anxiety

 

via Does Nature Actually Improve Mental Health? — It’s Personal

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