Have you ever calculated how much of your life is spent within the confinements of concrete and how much in nature? Being away from sunlight and Mother Nature is physically and mentally not good. It is always good to feel the fresh air and the soil beneath your feet and hear the cacophony of birds. The effects of nature on mental health are immense since we are a part of nature from the day of creation.
Being at least for some time amid greenery helps us fight off stress, depression and other forms of mental tiredness. Nature and mental health has a positive and linear relationship. Going green for mental health is a growing culture welcomed by all.
The need for being in nature’s lap:
Most of our waking hours are spent in the digital world either on laptop screens or smartphones. This is a kind of hostage to the digital world where we are chained to notifications and alerts. This builds up toxins in our system that should be removed.
Though we cannot avoid commitments of modern living, workplace and domestic responsibilities, a work- life balance needs to be worked out. Part of our time should be spent in outdoors. Parks, gardens, lakes, river and seaside are great to feed our brain that gets deprived of serenity at times. Even roof-top terrace walks would serve the purpose.
They let your skin breathe clean and fresh air. They let sunlight fall on you and encourage the production of vitamin D. They provide digital detox being off the grid and away from the grind. They give you the much-required life for which the entire human race is cut out for.
Remember, we lived in caves and treetops far back in time; the habit is programmed in our system. We should not let too much of modern mechanization to disrupt the system.
There isn’t a dearth of an indication to show that spending time amid nature has a soothing effect on mind and it is physically rewarding. A long stroll among lush woods drives away negative feelings. It is a potent antidepressant.
The effects of nature on mental health are best realized on the Japanese concept of “Shinrin Yoku” or Forest Bathing where you become one with nature. It is a mindful sojourn where you breathe in the flavor of the forest. You draw in pure oxygen to boost your system. You listen to the sweet melody of birds that brings in wonderful rhythm to your core stabilizing your composure.
It strengthens your immunity, eases bowel disorders, melancholy, anxiety and fury and great for your cardiovascular health as well. Experiments have revealed patients recovered faster when exposed to greenery from the window. When they saw a brick wall from the same window, the healing was slow.
Effect of nature on mental health:
Going green for mental health makes sense; it is a proved and universally accepted fact now. Being devoid of natural light in the confinement of indoors shoots our stress level. Conversely, sunlight has immense health benefits pertaining to both our mind and body. It mitigates tension and blood pressure and fortifies our immunity system.
By nature, human beings are comfortable with the natural environment. No amount of artificial comforts like air-conditioning and artificial heating would be enough. Could chill from air-conditioners replace the soothing comfort of the cool breeze blowing from a lake?
Our inclination to stay indoors welcomes a host of diseases. Step outside amid greenery and feel the nature. Find out for yourselves how connected you feel with the universe. Get the pleasant surprise of finding the source of motivation in plants and rocks, in air and in water. They all enhance your mental health and make you feel tranquil.
How going green is great for mental health?
- Nature is a great stress buster. All that you absorb from nature, from the aroma of flowers to the aroma of herbs, hovering butterflies to twitter of birds, and breaking of waves to whine of winds, all of them lifts your spirit.
- More time spent in nature the better. It mitigates negative feelings and eliminates anxiety, depression and psychosomatic disorders such as irritability, sleeplessness, indigestion and headaches sourced from tension.
- Enhances positive energy and rejuvenation. Being among nature improves concentration also.
- Spending sometime in nature improves self-awareness and control. It helps fight external adverse states including grief management. It enables us to control our mood and master them.
How to spend more time with Mother Nature?
It is not a difficult process at all and could be achieved simply by taking a walk in your garden. Even going for a stroll in a park or spending some time with self sitting on a bench by a lake or by a riverside would fetch equal benedictions. If you have time and means, you can be a little more adventurous going for hiking in the wilds.
A picnic with friends in a forested outdoor setting won’t be a bad idea. Nature and mental health are so closely connected that you can simply take in the benefits deep into your senses. How about replacing the harsh grating of machinery or a transport vehicle by the soft hum of a bee? How about shifting from neighborhood shouts to more peaceful crooning of your winged hosts in a forest?
Visiting nature restores your mental placidity; more frequently you do it faster you attain mental bliss. This has a long term beneficial effect on the mind. Even if you can spend a brief time in nature, it is great for lifting your mood. Research has dug insightful investigations into the effects of green spaces on mental health. Even peeping out of the window at the green space outdoors can improve your heart rate. It brings in peace pronto.
Surveys reveal outdoors have a rewarding impact on mental and physical health. Physical workouts should be done outdoors for better absorption of oxygen and better connectivity with nature. The process enhances your mental capabilities too. While working outdoors, mindfulness is important. It is advisable to switch off smartphones to block digital distractions.
In a structured approach, the philosophy of going green for mental health can be realized along with the following directives:
- Do your physical workouts outdoors. Endorphins released in the process when mixed with oxygen-rich air will do you immense good.
- Go for a picnic with friends in a nature park.
- Travel green. Instead of taking fuel-driven vehicles that leave carbon footprints, you can cycle to the destination. If the destination is close enough, walking would be a fine option. It would improve your heart health and mental potential.
- Open yourself to nature. To get maximum benefits, breathe in deep and draw in the fresh essence of greenery. It will make you tension free.
- Register at a community having a penchant for a rugged adventure. Rock climbing, nature walks, hiking, surfing and cycling in a team wouldn’t just be fun. These all would boost your physical and mental health as well.
Going green is a surefire cue that places loads of emphasis on frequent contact with nature for improving mental health. These cues are important signals that we shouldn’t ignore and they become quite discernible once we listen to our body and mind.
Ecotherapy and depression:
Ecotherapy takes the support of nature’s platform and offers a remedy to an ailing mind. It can take different shapes. Group activities like gardening, camping in nature, nature walks and farming have turned popular for treating anxiety and depression.
Ecotherapy combines social interaction, heightened physical activities and close contact with nature in defining its healing programs. Thoughts on the efficacy of Ecotherapy published in Frontiers in Psychology have stressed the importance of green space on mental health. It has correlated longevity and decreased risk of mental illness across the globe. Healing gardens have come into existence. They do have the potential to reduce mental illness.
The urban villain:
The craving for going green for mental health is rather out of fatigue inflicted by the urban lifestyle where a deluge of distractions invades our minds. A lot of concentration is needed to block these disruptions. The consequent efforts cause unnecessary drainage of our mental energy.
In a peaceful countryside, generally, you don’t need to give that effort to concentrate on your work. With nature around you, there is a lesser need for ‘ directed attention ‘. Our minds fall back to equilibrium fast in case it was in an excited state. Experiments show urban children with attention deficit syndrome in the UK show progress when taken to countryside.
The growing trend of eco-anxiety:
Since man is a part of nature any feel that brings suspicion something is going wrong with nature hits the panic button. A mental disorder called eco-anxiety has been identified by the American Psychological Association, calling it ‘a chronic fear of environmental doom’.
Following are its symptoms:
- Are you tensed about sharp temperature fluctuations?
- Are you tensed about heavy downpour and flooding?
- Are you worried about effects of environmental pollution caused by plastic abuse, wasting water, spilling chemicals and toxins into nature?
- Do you fear an apocalypse?
- Do you fear giving birth to your children in this polluted universe?
To handle eco-anxiety, you need to associate with groups trying to control the situation trying to preserve the environment and devise plans to protect nature from being jeopardized. The essence of going green for mental health is joining hands with groups putting efforts in the climate change movement. Studies suggest that mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation done in open space in nature’s lap can decrease eco-anxiety.
The effect of nature on mental health isn’t an overemphasized term at all. Remove man from nature and put him among the machinery and artificially manufactured comfort, you have driven the first nail on his coffin. Nature takes you to new heights of self actualization boosting your overall wellbeing.