Nature is something that far too many people take for granted, in today’s world. While we are surrounded by the flashy appeal of tiny screens that connect us to every person on the planet, we too often neglect the natural world around us. Not surprisingly, this hasn’t made people happier. Americans report higher levels of stress and anxiety than they ever have, today.
This isn’t to say that it is a bad thing to take advantage of technology, but it’s safe to say that many people in modern society could use a little more time outdoors. This is especially true, since spending time outside has been shown to reduce anxiety levels by reducing stress. Here are some of the ways that nature is able to do just that…
Nature is critical to experiential therapy
Going outside isn’t just a nice little novelty that makes you feel a bit better. There are real clinical properties to spending time out in nature that are to be had. As a matter of fact, getting out into nature and enjoying experiences in it are the very basis for experiential therapy, which is used to treat a variety of different mental disorders, from ADHD and anxiety disorders to insomnia and schizophrenia.
The idea behind experiential therapy is that it gets patients to play through their emotions through physical actions. This can be done in a therapist’s office, but proves to be more effective when it is done outdoors.
Outdoor hobbies improve health
It is a lot easier to maintain your mental health when you are also taking care of yourself, physically. Improved physical health leads to feeling more energized and having better self-esteem. Typically, outdoor hobbies lead to lots more movement and activity than indoor ones, unless you are in a gym or similarly designated place.
Here are some ideas for outdoor activities that you can bake into your routine to reduce stress:
- Bike for your commute: Instead of driving around in your car, which comes with its fair share of stress-inducing factors (traffic, anyone?), dust off your old bike and use it to go to work or run some errands. While it might take you a little longer, you are mixing exercise and travel time together, and also fighting back stress.
- Regular walks: If your typical day involves you being cooped up for an extended period of time, indoors, then your stress levels will benefit from taking regular walks throughout the day. Even just getting out to walk outside for a minutes will make an enormous difference in how you feel, throughout the day.
- Taking up a recreational sport: Taking up a sport or similar activity makes it easier to keep up with some intensive physical outdoor activity every week, because it is a regimented period of time that also promotes accountability for participants to, well, participate.
Nature heals mental fatigue
In the Journal for Epidemiology and Community Health, one particular study of 350,000 people in the Netherlands found that anxiety disorders decreased by nearly 30% in areas where people lived near green spaces. For depression, those numbers dropped by over 30%.
While the exact reason for this causation is still being researched, researchers have hypothesized that being around nature promotes healthier habits of socialization and physical activity. In addition to this, even just looking at natural environments has been shown to lower a person’s resting heart rate and promote relaxation.
Bringing the outdoors, indoors, helps too
You can get some of the benefits of being outdoors inside of your home, as well. Adding natural accents to your home, such as letting more sunlight in or adding plants to bring some nature inside, are excellent ways to make your home more of a stress-free environment. As stated above, even looking at pictures of natural environments causes a decrease in stressful feelings and makes it easier to relax. It can be very practical to harness those benefits within your own home.