Our environment plays an important role in the way we feel, think and respond to different situations. What we see, hear and smell in our surroundings impacts our brain in different ways making us feel happy, sad, anxious, or stressed out. Research reveals that environment affects our mental health and since our environment keeps on changing depending on our everyday routine, our brain functionality under these changes impacts our body functions too. A lot of our body functions depend on how our brain is being fed by the environment. For example, if we are in an unpleasant or stressing environment, it may increase our blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and can even affect our immune system.
Human health and especially mental well-being are connected to nature in swarming ways as we all have different perspective of nature and different reasons and ways to connect with it. Our love for nature is inborn and bred along with human evolution. Scholars spanning a spread of disciplines have studied the manner in which natural environments may impact human well-being in terms of human cognitive function and psychological condition. According to a research published in “Annals Of The New York Academy Of Sciences” in 2012, the researchers concluded that many studies have demonstrated the impacts of nature experience on human mental health and affects have shown to varying measures in memory, attention, concentration, impulse inhibition and mood. Researchers, in a 2015 study, compared the effects of a 90 minute walk in a natural setting and an urban one, on the brain activity of the participants. This study found that those who had walked in natural setting showed less brain activity associated with negative thoughts and emotions. Evidence also supports the theory which says that interacting with nature provides many therapeutic benefits such as soothing nature sounds or even silence in the wilderness can lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol- a hormone in our body which calms us down.
In another research article published by “International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health” in November 2019, it was revealed that in-door exposure to visual sources of nature such as photos and videos induced a more physiological relaxing state. This study further found that exposure to nature such as green plants, flowers and wooden materials impacted the prefrontal cortex of brain and autonomic nervous activities in a considerable positive way.
Have you ever wondered that why you feel more relaxed, calm or more focused after having a walk on a mountain track or sitting by the beach while watching the sunset? It surely implies that nature takes us away from all the stress which is caused by our busy everyday life. You might not need to look into detailed research work to find out as you can experience it yourself. A simple day out in nature can improve your mental well being by relieving anxiety, stress and depression. Nature has a soothing and restoring ability. By spending time in nature, you can boost your energy and improve feeling of vitality and focus. There are other countless ways in which nature can be helpful. For example, exposing yourself to nature instead of confining indoors can be a great way to go through grieving process since nature has a healing affect. Similarly, close interaction with nature can help you recover from injuries quickly by taking your mind away from negative thoughts of suffering and pain.Chronic injuries take longer time to recover from and individuals suffering from chronic injuries are prone to depression. That is why medical professionals recommend spending time in nature to such patients. Positive effects of nature improve behavioral functioning of our mind which helps us boost our social life as nature increases our tendency to be more caring and humbler towards others.
How to get yourself close to nature? Well, it’s not that hard. You can start with taking a walk in the woods or if you live in a strictly urban area, it might not be hard to find a park. 20 to 30 minutes of regular walk will make you feel the change. If you are already a fitness-oriented person and do exercise daily, it’s always a better idea to move your workout into the outdoors. Whatever exercises you do at home can be done out in nature. Parks now have specific areas allocated for exercise.Exercising in natural settings reduces the mental health problems considerably and you will not get bored of the same indoor surrounding where you exercise at home. Nature helps to improve your senses. You will love taking a deep breath in fresh air and smell the soothing scent of the flowers and trees. Sound of birds chirping in the woods also creates an overwhelming feeling of calmness inside you.
Apart from maintaining a regular routine of going out in the green every day, you can plan nature tours with your friends once a month or quarterly in a year. Night Camping by a lakeside or a mountain hike will improve your well-being both in terms of mental and physical health.