Mental Health and The Environment
May 01, 2023
The benefits of getting outdoors and into nature have long been known to have positive effects on our physical health. Whether that’s a short walk, a long hike or a jog through the park, making the most of the natural world can do great things for your body. However, what can being outside or finding ways to connect with nature do to improve our mental health?
Young people experience a range of mental health issues and can often struggle to get support, and stress can play a large part in this. Research done by The Mental Health Foundation has shown that young people experience significant levels of stress. Some common reasons for this involve pressures to succeed, issues with body image or appearance or fears about making mistakes. Many experience all of these fears at the same time, which has led to a large number of young people also feeling unable to cope as well as feeling overwhelmed. Further, the pandemic and multiple lockdowns have also had a significant impact on the decline of young people’s mental health, and stress can play a big part in making many of these negative feelings, including anxiety and depression, feel much worse.
How nature can help
Whenever we encounter difficult emotions, one thing we can do is practice self-care. Self-care is about how we look after our mental and physical health, and it will look different for everyone. Practicing self-care can help you to find ways to notice your mood and be more connected to your feelings. It can also help you calm down or feel more positive and able to cope with negative feelings. Being outdoors and connecting with nature can also help to reduce feelings of stress and anger. In addition, research has shown doing things to feel connected to your environment can improve your mood and help you relax.
When it comes to self-care, it’s important to find what works for you. Connecting with your environment and nature can be a great addition to your self-care strategies. Along with the mental health benefits to getting outside, it can also encourage you to be more active and improve your physical health too. Physical activity can produce chemicals in your brain that will make you feel better, giving you more energy and helping you to get a better nights’ sleep. A recent study by The University of Exeter has found that even listening to birdsong could provide relief from tiredness and stress.
What can you do?
You can introduce nature into your self-care and mindfulness strategies in many ways:
- A short walk through the woods
- Sitting in a park and listening to the sounds around you
- Growing plants or food
- Writing down the different types of flowers or birds you can see
- Joining groups to pick up litter and tidy natural areas
There are also lots of options for you if you can’t find ways to get outside, if you don’t have parks or green spaces nearby, or if you might be nervous or struggling to think of how to start. You can do things like growing indoor plants, starting a small herb garden or listening to guided meditation that includes sounds from nature. You’ll also be able to find a variety of different group projects and activities too. Getting involved in walking groups or nature conservation groups can also help if you’re experiencing loneliness or feeling isolated, increasing your confidence and self-esteem.
What to do if you need help
Being outdoors and taking time to be mindful can have many positive mental health benefits, but sometimes you might need some extra help. If you need support, it’s important to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Through Mindsum, you can book a free initial consultation with a qualified mental health professional.