Many folks have long been aware of the positive impact of spending time in the great outdoors. There have also been a number of research studies spanning the last few decades that have highlighted the positive impact of time spent surrounded by trees, parks, gardens, oceans, lakes, rivers and other natural wonders. Here are just a few examples of the positive effects of nature therapy on your mental health and emotional well-being.
- Living in an area with more green spaces creates less psychological distress. Simply being able to see green spaces during your day offers major emotional and mental health benefits. Overall, research indicates that those who live near greenery tend to experience fewer mental health issues.
- Living in greener areas is associated with a greater sense of satisfaction with life. This is especially true for those living in cities or urban areas. People who live near parks or on tree-lined streets rate themselves as happier than those who are surrounded by the so-called “concrete jungle.”
- People who have a view of water are even less stressed. The link between looking at “blue space” and feeling more relaxed indicates that living near a lake or ocean actually has a calming effect. In fact, there is evidence that being within view of a body of water has even more positive benefits than being able to see green spaces.
- Spending more time engaged in nature-based recreation provides a stronger sense of well-being. Evidence has been shown to support the restorative effects of nature exposure on overall emotional health and well-being. Whether you choose to join a group or go it alone, you can reap the benefits of experiencing nature.
- Spending as little as five minutes engaging in outdoor activities provides improved mood and self-esteem. Even better, it doesn’t seem to matter what kind of exercise you engage in, although stronger effects were seen when the exercise occurred near water, such as a lake or river. Some suggested activities include walking, biking, fishing, boating, gardening, farming and horseback riding.
- Taking a 50-minute walk in nature decreases anxiety and other negative affects. Results of one study also showed cognitive benefits including improvements in working memory and performance after experiencing a nature walk.
- Walking in nature may reduce your risk for depression and reduce negative thoughts. Researchers actually found noticeable changes in the brains of people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural landscape versus those who walked along a heavily trafficked roadway.
- Walking outdoors increases your creativity. While even taking a walk on a treadmill seems to help ideas flow more easily, researchers found that walking outdoors produces the strongest boost to creative thinking.
All of this research leads to the clear conclusion that spending time simply looking at as well as experiencing nature contributes to positive mental health and emotional well-being – and can boost productivity and morale as well. So get outside – whether it’s for five minutes or 90 – and make the most of the natural beauty this incredible world offers. You’ll feel better, and the added health benefits of being more active are an extra bonus. It’s well worth making hiking or other outdoor activities a habit.