The importance of nature for mental health has long been established, but it’s worth thinking about why it’s so crucial. When we’re in an urban environment, the hustle and bustle of the activity around us can create stress, and give us a sense of urgency.
In contrast, Nature provides us with a calm environment that can help reduce stress levels. Nature provides a calming influence that prompts the body to produce chemicals that are natural mood lifters that help to alleviate stress. Whether you are taking a long walk in a park, just soaking up the sun, or relaxing in your garden, being outdoors is a great way to relieve yourself of pent up stress.
Getting outside can really help with your mental health
Nature offers us a break from the stresses of modern life. It provides an escape from our daily lives and brings us a sense of peace and contentment. The simple act of being outdoors in Nature has been shown to be therapeutic for those who are feeling anxious. The natural sounds and colours help decompress our minds and free them of any worries. That’s why it’s really important to take time out and spend time in nature. It really can reduce depression, anxiety and stress. But don’t just take our word for it, try it yourself.
The Importance of Nature in Physical and Mental Health
Our mind becomes more energised and focused when we’re walking in Nature, listening to the birds chirp and watching the leaves fall. Studies have found that walking has a calming effect on the brain’s activity. Going for a hike in a country park or a nature reserve can increase the production of endorphins – making you feel good.
Physical activity, even walking, provides your body with stress relief. Your muscles get a work out while cardiovascular activity can help your digestive and immune systems. This gentle physical activity can also lower blood pressure and reduce your heart rate.
3 Ways to get better connected with Nature
We now know what we need to do: get outdoors and enjoy Nature. But is it easier said than done? We don’t think so; here’s 3 simple ways you can get back to Nature.
Integrating Nature into your work
We all seem to spend hours and hours every day looking at screens, but did you ever stop to consider how technology can affect us?
Sitting at a desk 8 hours a day is another way of saying you are sedentary. High sedentary levels are linked to depression. If this is you, then you need to break this cycle.
You might think that you don’t work near Nature, but it’s probably closer than you know. Most cities and towns have green spaces. Could you visit those at lunchtime?
Urban green spaces include not only parks, but leafy roads and public gardens. Taking a stroll through one of these areas will help you relax and reduce stress. Depending on where you are, these lunchtime walks can also reduce your exposure to air pollution and excessive noise. Can you find a new walk to explore near your work?
If a lunchtime walk is out of the question, ask your boss to consider an office makeover incorporating ‘Biophilic Design’. You could become more connected to “the natural environment through the use of direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place conditions“. Think natural light, indoor plants, windows with views and so on.
How to make Nature a part of your life
The simplest way to incorporate Nature into your life is by regularly visiting the great outdoors. Northern Ireland has lots of beauty spots and we’ve put together a list of 10 Hidden Walking Gems that you could visit this summer. Let’s face it, you can’t visit a Country Park or Nature Reserve every day, so where can you go? Try to think of walks close to home that are quiet, relatively green and provide you with fresh air. You might be surprised at what’s on your doorstep. And don’t forget, if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, spend some quality time in it.
Why does Nature help us to stay positive?
Let’s just remind ourselves what some of the benefits of getting into Nature are:
- As we enjoy Nature we tend to relax
- Being in Nature is a natural stress relief and antidepressant
- This helps our mental health
- Your concentration and attention should improve
- The Natural environment promotes creativity
As we can see, connecting with nature supports our mental health and wellbeing. If you have been inspired to get back into Nature then we would recommend listening to the ‘Take a Walk on the Mind Side’ podcast from our friends at Inspire.
Frank Liddy (lead Mindfulness Practitioner) and Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs country and forest park rangers have put together a series of mindfulness podcasts. Each podcast features a local country or forest park. As you listen, we will accompany you on this mindfulness journey, explaining the environment and what you should see and hear, all while taking notice of the world around you.
Taking the time to pause and breathe, then noticing and exploring the world around you can help clarify the things that are often lost in our busy daily lives.
You can download and listen to ‘Take a Walk on the Mind Side’ with your favourite podcast app.
8 things you should consider when visiting a park
The Park Code helps to keep our country parks and nature reserves protected, clean and safe for everyone. While you’re enjoying Nature this summer, please consider these steps:
- Protect all wildlife, plants and trees.
- Please take your litter home or use the bins provided.
- We love dogs. Please keep yours under control and clean up after your dog.
- Guard against all risks of fire.
- Parks contain natural hazards. Please read and adhere to all health and safety signs, stay on designated pathways and please be sure to supervise children at all times.
- Please keep noise to a minimum. So you can enjoy the peaceful surroundings and hear the sounds of nature.
- Check weather conditions.
- Wear appropriate clothing and footwear.
Count Us In, Be A Climate Hero
Did you know that walking can help combat climate change?
We’ve partnered with ‘Count Us In’ to tell you how much CO2 your small lifestyle changes could save. Use the Count Us In calculator to find out how much CO2 you could save just by walking. You can make a difference. Start today.