- Type: Physical
- Time needed: 20+ Minutes
- Frequency: Daily
Spending time in nature is good for your mental health – it helps reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being. It also seems to be beneficial to mental performance, in that it’s an ideal way to help the brain recharge.
The more natural the environment better – being absorbed in nature is best but going to urban greenspaces like public parks is still useful.
- Reduced stress
- Increased happiness
- Increased focus
- Recovery of mental energy
- Improved physical health through increased activity
Researchers have done a lot of research into what they call “ecotherapy.” This basically means spending time in nature, in the environments we evolved to live in, as opposed to the concrete boxes that we currently do live in.
On the whole, the results of this research are pretty promising. The evidence so far suggests that spending time in nature could be useful to people undergoing treatment for stress, depression, anxiety, and anger.
How to do it
It’s pretty simple in theory – just take your physical body to a natural environment. As general rule of thumb, more exposure and immersion into nature is best, but less is still good.
So maybe something like this, in increasing order of effectiveness:
- Having plants in the house
- Spending time in a garden
- Going to a greenspace or bluespace like a park or the beach
- Going to a national park, hiking trail or something similar
- Camping in the wild
Why it works
Researchers who study the effects of nature believe it is inherently captivating and relaxing to the mind.
Think about walking through a city versus walking through a forest.
In the city:
- You have adverts trying to pull your attention here and there
- Charity workers and other hustlers try to get money off you
- Every storefront beckons you in
- You have to duck and dive to avoid bumping into people
- You face the noise of traffic, buskers, and people
- You have to beware of cars and cyclists
- Be aware of your belongings and watch out for pickpockets
Generally, in the city it’s hard to switch off and relax – the mind has a lot to do.
Now think about nature:
- Everything is inherently interesting without being intense
- No one bothers you
- It’s quiet, and what noise there is, tends to be relaxing
- Nothing wants anything from you
Yes, you have to watch your step if the ground is uneven, and depending on where you live and what the wildlife is like, you might have to take precautions to avoid certain animals and creatures.
But that’s about all you have to actively do. You don’t get the constant stream of stimuli grasping and pulling at your attention. Looking at it this way, it’s easy to see how nature could be beneficial to mental health.
But it’s also good for mental performance – having less to do, the mind can recharge its batteries, so to speak. You leave a natural environment feeling mentally ready to go again.
Some studies have shown benefits with shorter nature breaks, such as 20 minutes. But longer is better, and ideally, try to take a nature break daily.
You can think of nature as giving a turbocharge to any break period – so it’s better to spend your lunch break in as natural environment as possible. Get out of the office and go to a park – or as close as you can get to one.