There are decades of research papers that back up the physical and mental health benefits of nature. An article by the United States Department Of Agriculture reported statistics from studies that looked at the connection between community nature areas like parks and the mental health of people living nearby. They found “a connection between neighborhood greenness, self-reported general health, and a lowered risk of physician-diagnosed diseases.” Participants in the study who lived in areas with less than 10% natural green space had a 25% higher risk of developing depression and were 30% more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Those risks decreased as the percentage of greenery increased.
There is a reason that many facilities choose locations on lush green land and often have gardens or other areas around them. People have known the health benefits of being surrounded by nature for thousands of years. All the current research has provided supporting evidence that viewing and interacting with the natural world can help you heal and grow.
You do not even have to physically be out in nature to take advantage of the health benefits. Researchers have found evidence that viewing videos or images of nature scenes is enough to cause positive physical and psychological changes, including the following:
A few standard therapies that often incorporate natural imagery and outdoor locations include yoga, meditation, animal therapy, and art therapy. You can also talk to your care management team or therapist if you would like to take advantage of the effect nature can have by inserting natural elements into your current psychotherapy. A few ways you can do this include the following:
You can find ways to connect with nature even if you live in the middle of a city. Natural locations like parks, lakes, beaches, and mountain trails are excellent places to exercise and are usually located within driving distance. A few examples of activities you can do outdoors in nature include the following:
Those are all great ways to relax and let yourself focus on the moment. You can practice mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation techniques that you may have learned in therapy. Doing these practices while in a stress-free environment can improve your mood and decrease anxiety or depression.
Many people in recovery are transitioning to a healthier lifestyle. Incorporating physical activities into your routine is one way to make a healthy lifestyle change. Additionally, some people may feel anxious about being alone in nature. If you are hesitant to go out on your own, you can turn outdoor activities into a weekly adventure with your friends or a loved one. You can also join a local hiking, boating, trail riding, or similar group and enjoy the act of socializing in a calm, relaxing environment. Make a list of activities you would like to do, and then schedule them into your weekly and monthly routines.
You can use images, videos, and sound clips of nature to promote feelings of calm and contentment. Many people have machines and apps that reproduce the sounds of animals, rain, the beach, or other soothing sounds to treat sleep issues like insomnia. Stress management exercises such as yoga and meditation often occur in an exercise studio with natural sounds from decorations like water fountains and plant farms to provide a serene environment.
A 2013 article by the University of Essex in the United Kingdom looked at how viewing images of nature could help people recover after they have experienced sudden emotional distress. They found that viewing nature images before the stressful event impacted how quickly the participants recovered and the initial severity of their reaction. These findings indicate that spending time in nature or viewing pictures of nature can help lessen the impact of stress.
They also reported that the color of nature might play a significant role. “Recent research suggests that the primitive characteristic of color, in particular, the ‘greenness,’ of a nature image is associated with improved mood.” You can take advantage of this quirk of nature by hanging images of luscious greenery or even growing some plants in your home as a natural way to lower stress. Evidence also suggests that when natural green spaces include blue spaces, like a lake or river, the health benefits increase.