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The pandemic has seen many of us embrace the green spaces around us more than ever before. Finding solace in the natural settings around us—we’ve learnt to appreciate the joy of nature. From rolling hills to local parks and some of the most captivating coastlines in Europe. Nature offers us a chance to escape our familiar environments. It provides us with peace, calm, health and happiness in return. But what is it about nature that boosts our morale in such a simple way?
Discover some of the positive impacts of nature on mental health below.
Boosts vitamin D levels
When we spend time outdoors, the cholesterol in our skin cells is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet light. This provides the energy for us to produce Vitamin D in our bodies. Vitamin D is important for absorbing minerals from our food like calcium and phosphate. These minerals keep our teeth, bones and muscles healthy.
Research also shows that adequate levels of Vitamin D can boost weight loss, fight disease and reduce depression. We all know how much of a mood-booster it can be when the sun is shining. But there are many more health benefits to getting out in the fresh air than you might think.
Increased activity levels
Immersing ourselves in nature generally means we are going to be moving our bodies somehow. A hilly hike or a brisk walk—anyway we can get moving matters. Moving our bodies helps to keep us fit. Control our weight, improve our mood and strengthen our muscles. That’s the magical power of moving our bodies.
The Japanese practice of ‘Forest Bathing’ has gained attention in recent years, seeing woodland walks growing in popularity. It involves immersing yourself in the atmosphere of the forest. Focusing on the sights, sounds and smells around you. Like traditional mindfulness practises, the idea is to bring attention into the present. Release any tendencies to worry or ruminate. And be here, in this moment.
Come to a halt on a project? Got a big decision on your mind? Feeling stuck? The remedy might be closer than you think. Research shows that time in nature can help to overcome creative blocks. As well as inspiring new ways of thinking. Instead of feeling the usual time pressures of busy day-to-day life, the mind is free to marvel at the world around us.
People tend to report feelings of awe when admiring beautiful views or sunsets. These kinds of expansive, uplifting feelings allow us to break free from pressures, and gain new perspectives—on old problems.
Time in nature has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety and symptoms of depression. It can also provide a boost in self-esteem and improve confidence. The natural light in the summer months can lift moods, encourage us outside and brighten our days. But for those struggling with mental health issues—it’s so much more than that.
Research also shows that spending time in green spaces is associated with good mental health. It’s indicated that people can even gain a deeper sense of meaning and see a reduction in negative emotions. All from getting a tad more green into your routine.
Provides social interaction
There’s also a positive secondary benefit to spending all that time in nature. Getting out of the house to new places encourages social interaction with others. A walk with a friend. A friendly stranger you get chatting to along the way. A cheerful dog that brightens your day. These experiences help us to make new connections. And in turn, influence our mental wellbeing. Next time you spend time in nature, smile at a stranger, or strike up a conversation. Then watch what happens to your mood afterwards. Test the theory for yourself!
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