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Nature Therapy For Mental Health

Nature “Therapy” is Good for Mental Health

Spending time in nature–casually referred to as “nature therapy”–has many positive mental health outcomes. Each year, new studies emerge highlighting how people can nurture their health by spending increased time in nature, getting exposure to sunlight, and bringing natural elements (like house plants) indoors.

If you have ever been stressed and found yourself feeling calmer after a walk outside, then you know from personal experience how nature can help reduce tension and lift your mood. Here is a brief glimpse into the ways that nature “therapy” is great for mental health for people of all ages.

Humans Are a Part of Nature: It Makes Sense That We Need It

Nature Therapy For Mental Health
Humans are part of nature, so our brains and bodies need nature.

While it is easy to feel–and be–disconnected from nature, people are a part of nature. Historically, most of human life was spent outdoors, which means that our brains and bodies are naturally adapted to life outside.

Humans shifted from hunter gatherer lifestyles, to agrarian systems with farming and more permanent settlements, and in more modern times, we spend time in office buildings, indoor shops, and the confines of apartments and houses.

From a “big picture” historic perspective, humans are used to a lot of time in nature, but modern humans now spend 90% of our time indoors. That is a sharp decrease from what we were accustomed to by design.

Eco-psychology studies the link between nature and health

People in cities that have little green space often deal with cognitive fatigue. This is where eco-psychology comes in: how can we design cities that center our basic need for nature?

Ecopsychology has helped people consider how to better design their homes, office spaces, backyards, and more, to be reflective of nature. Studying the link between nature and health has also helped reveal that plants and green space help reduce stress. Even spending some time in a backyard or “pocket park” can produce positive outcomes.

Children also need nature for overall, strong mental health

Nature Therapy For Mental Health
Many studies suggest that children with attention deficit disorders may experience reduced symptoms when they consistently spend more time in nature.

Bringing family or friends to a park is an easy way to be outside, get some movement, take a break from screens, and experience a mood boost. Many studies suggest that children with attention deficit disorders may experience reduced symptoms when they consistently spend more time in nature.

If you have a child in your life and you can consider a weekly trip to a regional or city park, a local school garden, or even a local, favorite tree, you are helping your child stay healthy on many levels. Kids often know how to explore nature and can remind adults too, when we forget or when it’s been a while.

Simply feeling connected to nature is good for children, teenagers, and adults.

Nature Therapy can Improve Quality of Life

Many types of therapy can help people realize big epiphanies like, “I want to have more energy in my life,” or “I want a job that allows me to spend my weekends in nature, with no need to check email.”

There is also an abundance of nature-based activities, from hiking to looking for rainbows after a good rain. Maybe make a list of three activities in nature you miss doing or that you are curious to try. Can you try one this week? Therapists can also help you set healthy lifestyle goals and spend more time in nature.

North American Mental Health Services has offices in Redding, Eureka, Fairfield, Woodland, Monterey and Salinas to work with a therapist in person. Online therapy is available through HomePsych.