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Wake up and smell the roses… seriously: the nurturing aspects of nature!

“Go out and smell the roses,” “Go touch some grass,” “get some fresh air,” is what they always say. But… who are they? and why do I have to go outside? Should I actually go outside? Turns out, there are actually some pretty hefty benefits from stepping out into the green.  Here is the breakdown of the lucrative benefits of nature on mental health! 

Green leaves on a tree

There’s a term for that!

Biophilia hypothesis is the idea where humans have evolved alongside nature that led to have a natural affinity for it. Directly translating to “love for life,” it is argued that there is an innate need to be in close contact and communion with life, whether that be nature, animals, or plants. This hypothesis is based on two theories: The first is Attention Restoration Theory (ART) where the overstimulation of the modern world causes mental fatigue and therefore a depleted capacity to direct attention. In turn, this means that the calming characteristics of nature are able to restore that capacity. The second is Stress Reduction Theory (SRT), where spending time in nature influences certain feelings and emotions that lessen stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, meaning the elimination or lessening of the flight or fight mechanisms.

Stay close to the trees 

Whether or not this hypothesis is proven, various research has shown a plethora of the benefits that nature has on our bodies and minds.

Just being in proximity to greenery can provide immense benefits for mental health. For example, green spaces near schools were found to promote cognitive development in children. Additionally, If children are able to view a green space from their home, it can promote self controlling behaviors. For adults it is similar, where adults living in neighborhoods with more green spaces showed improved attentional control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility, as opposed to those living with less green space. It was found that those living in urban environments were linked to attention deficits. Living around green spaces for an extended amount of time also has been seen to reduce risk for psychiatric disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, eating and substance disorders, among others. In fact, the risk is 55% higher for those living in an urban setting.

Feel the feelings!

Beyond cognition and production, nature is additionally able to assist in emotional regulation and provides existential benefits such as increasing happiness, well being, positive social interaction, sense of purpose in life, as well as decreasing mental distress. 

Additionally, the level of connection people have with the natural environment can be measured on a scale, and is often called nature relatedness, connectedness to nature and inclusion of nature in self. A higher connectedness to nature correlates to an increase in benefits in mental health and mood. In fact, it leads to a greater eudaimonic wellbeing, which is the contentment with the motivation to do something meaningful. Connectedness to nature was found to be a significant predictor of happiness, in comparison to the connectedness between one’s friends or community.

How much time should I stay outside and be in nature? 

It actually doesn’t take a lot of time for nature’s powers to affect us! Research has shown that only a few moments of looking at or even just listening to nature is able to perk up a tired mind, providing recuperative benefits to the demanding hustle and bustle of life. In order to get nature’s full benefits, there isn’t a proven specific amount of time we should strive to be outside for, however a study has shown that people who spent at least two hours in nature spread out or in one session in one week revealed significantly increased health and well being. This remained true across subgroups consisting of older adults and people with chronic health problems. There is much more research to be done to get a firm answer, but this is a step in the right direction of determining recommendations for how much time we should really spend in nature. 

Key takeaways 

It’s clear to see that nature is a clear asset to increasing well being and happiness. Ever since the dawn of time we have needed nature, and now more than ever, nature needs us. As our connectedness to nature increases, so does the urgency to protect and care for the earth. Go spend some time in nature today, allow yourself to feel its benefits and recuperative powers, and think about how we can give back to the earth that continues to help us so much. 


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