The Benefits of Nature for Mental and Physical Health

The Benefits of Nature for Mental and Physical Health

Studies show that just two hours of nature a week can boost health and well being. You can spend this time all at once, or split it into smaller daily segments.

Two major theories explain the link between nature and health: Attention Restoration Theory and Stress Reduction Theory. Both posit that the constant distractions of modern life leave people’s capacity to direct their attention depleted.

Reduces Stress

While many of us are glued to our computers and smartphones, spending time in nature or even just looking at green space can be an antidote to stress. A growing body of research shows that a walk in the park, a day spent hiking or a view of water can reduce blood pressure, muscle tension and stress hormones as well as enhance immune system function and mood.

In addition, exposure to nature may help restore attention and boost cognitive functioning. Researchers have studied these effects using both correlational studies as well as controlled experimental and randomized control trials. Using natural experiments and randomized trials lowers the chance of bias, and provides stronger evidence of effects than correlational studies alone.

Various multi-sensory aspects of nature have been shown to be beneficial including bird and frog sounds, wildflower smells, visual beauty and touch. Several studies show that biodiverse nature, in particular, has a greater impact on mental restoration and calm than non-biodiverse settings.

Relieves Anxiety

As more people live in urban areas, depression and anxiety have become increasingly common. The good news is that nature can help. Research shows that being in green spaces decreases the symptoms of these disorders.

In one study, twins who lived close to more green space had a lower risk of depression. Other studies have shown that interacting with nature improves attention. In a recent study, participants who listened to nature sounds such as crickets and waves performed better on cognitive tests than those who listened to city noises.

The research into the benefits of nature is growing quickly. Some experts have even coined the term ecotherapy. The goal of ecotherapy is to use nature for healing and recovery, based on the idea that it can help people with mental health problems. It also encourages people to protect the environment. This can relieve anxiety about environmental issues such as climate change, which is a source of stress for many.

Increases Focus

Researchers have found that time in nature improves cognitive function, mood, and blood pressure. It also reduces feelings of stress and anxiety. A new trend in health research focuses on the benefits of blue space (water environments) and natural areas with biodiversity.

A growing number of studies are finding that even spending just two hours a week in nature can significantly increase your well being. It is important that the place you choose feels safe and that you are able to relax and enjoy it.

Whether you spend your time in an urban or remote park, the benefits of being in nature are similar. Researchers have found that even watching videos of nature can produce positive outcomes for health and well being. This is known as ecotherapy. There are several different ways to get in touch with nature including walking and gardening. The goal is to find a way to bring nature into our daily lives and to build a sense of connection to it.

Increases Energy

In addition to feeling more relaxed, people who regularly spend time in nature report more energy. The reason for this is likely because the natural environment offers a variety of exercise opportunities, which can help to improve fitness and boost mood.

Studies also show that spending time in biodiverse nature has particular positive health benefits. For instance, the sound of birds or frogs, or the smell of wildflowers, can be beneficial for mental restoration and can encourage creativity.

Unfortunately, many urban residents face barriers to enjoying the benefits of nature. This is particularly true for women, younger people, disabled people and people from ethnic minorities – groups who are at greater risk of poor mental health. They may feel that access to green or blue spaces is less available, or that these areas are unsafe for them to visit. These concerns need to be taken into account when studying the health impacts of nature. It is also important that the research on health benefits of green space includes a diverse range of study populations.

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