How Nature Affects Our Mental Health

2021-04-23

 |  Health/Lifestyle

2020 urged us all to reassess our financial, physical, and, most importantly, mental well-being.

Intending to stay safe and healthy from a distance, many of us spend our time doing the same things in the same spaces. Being confined to the same spaces can feel claustrophobic for our body and mind, which brings us to this article’s focus: nature and mental health.

It may not be a surprise to some that being in nature or seeing a little bit of greenery every day boosts our mood and overall well-being.Mind.org shares that natureaffects our mental health in various ways:

  • “Improve your mood by reducing stress 
  • Enhance your physical health by being more active
  • Boost your confidence and self-esteem
  • Supports better memory, creativity, and work satisfaction
  • Presents an opportunity to make new connections”
  • Build a connection with nature—we’ll talk more about this later in the article!

Any form of ecotherapy affects us differently from meditating or trying yoga indoors because the tranquil ambiance of nature is contagious. You don’t have to do an activity in nature to reap the benefits of feeling more at ease by merely sitting next to a tree.

The best part about taking a moment to immerse oneself in nature is that it’s free! Unless you want to visit an aquarium or animals at the farm, you won’t need to pay to observe and absorb nature’s calming atmosphere at a park, forest, beach, or seawall.

British Columbia Doctors Can Prescribe Daily Dose of Nature

Photo by    Joel Cross    on    Unsplash
Photo by Joel Cross on Unsplash

Some may refer to this practice as nature therapy or “ecotherapy.” Ecotherapy is a formal therapy led by trained professionals who host various outdoor activities in nature to improve one’s mental health.

It may come as a surprise that ecotherapy is a formal therapy because we don’t hear doctors prescribing a daily dose of nature. Dr. Melissa Lem changed this in December 2020.

The Vancouver-based family physician Dr. Lem brought A Prescription for Nature orPaRx to life. This program gives physicians the option to prescribe around two hours in nature every week to their patients.

Dr. Lem shared that within the first couple of days of PaRx’s launch, 60 doctors already submitted their name to become a prescriber. Now that it is set up in B.C., the program’s next step is to expand Eastward of Canada to Alberta.

Prescribing a regular dose of nature benefits not only the patients but also the planet. With every doctor’s support, individuals seeking a break from daily chaos from nature will become more connected with the environment.

Spending even a few hours more than usual boosts a person’s physical and mental health.Studies revealed decreased “chances of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.” It seems evident that seeing a little bit of greenery does wonder for our body and mind.

So, how can you add more nature into your day?

How to Add More Nature into Your Day

Incorporating more greenery into your day can be as simple as taking care of a potted plant in your home. If you’re a busy bee, regrowing green onions and herbs on your balcony is an affordable option to begin with. You also save some money buying these ingredients!

When you move your house plants to your balcony (if you have one), you can get a breath of fresh air while enjoying your miniature garden. 

Of course, you could take this to the next level and travel outside your home when it’s safe to do so. With the ongoing pandemic, going outside may not be an option right now. 

When it is safe to do so, outdoor activities that you can consider for exercising such as walking, cycling, hiking, or planting a garden in your backyard. Other ways to immerse yourself into nature could be volunteering at a local park or city farm or connecting with animals like your pet or the neighbourhood squirrel. 

Photo by  Markus Spiske  on  Unsplash
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Ecotherapy Helps Nature, Too

Besides the fact that ecotherapy helps our mental health, ecotherapy helps our environment, too. Not to worry if this surprises you because I was also amazed at first. 

When we spend more time in nature, we begin to appreciate the natural, tranquil environment more. It’s like when you spend more time with someone, you learn and appreciate them more because you understand the individual better than you did before. It’s a similar scenario with nature. 

PaRx explains that as more of us spend time in nature, we can help the planet in various ways. Greater demand for more “urban green spaces reduces the urban heat island effect [while] improving the mental and physical health of people living nearby.” More greenery for active transportation like cycling to work or school means we can “reduce carbon emissions and improve the mental and heart health of active commuters.”

More importantly, when we introduce more nature time for children and youth, they are more likely to become environmentalists and continue practising ways to protect our forests and coastal ecosystems in the future. 

So, how will you be adding more greenery into your day?