After a long, cold winter, spring has finally sprung! Now’s the time to seize the outdoors while the weather allows for it. Not only does nature offer fresh air and stunning scenery, but it also hosts a wide range of benefits for our physical, cognitive and mental health. Read on for ideas that will help you enjoy the great outdoors while reaping the benefits of what Mother Earth has to offer.
How are nature & mental health connected?
According to the Mental Health Foundation, “Nature can generate many many positive emotions, such as calmness, joy, and creativity and can facilitate concentration. Nature connectedness is also associated with lower levels of poor mental health, particularly lower depression and anxiety.”
Numerous studies have shown this to be true. The reverse is also known to be true—not getting enough time outside can have a negative impact on mental health.
While not recognized as an official medical condition or psychological disorder in any medical manuals such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), there is a concept known as “Nature Deficit Disorder” (NDD). Nature Deficit Disorder was first introduced by author and co-founder of Children & Nature Network, Richard Louv, in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.
“I coined the phrase to serve as a description of the human costs of alienation from nature and it is not meant to be a medical diagnosis (although perhaps it should be), but as a way to talk about an urgent problem that many of us knew was growing, but had no language to describe it,” the author explains in a blog post about NDD.
He goes on to say, “Since 2005, the number of studies of the impact of nature experience on human development has grown from a handful to nearly one thousand. This expanding body of scientific evidence suggests that nature-deficit disorder contributes to a diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, conditions of obesity, and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses. Research also suggests that the nature-deficit weakens ecological literacy and stewardship of the natural world. These problems are linked more broadly to what health care experts call the ‘epidemic of inactivity’ and to a devaluing of independent play. Nonetheless, we believe that society’s nature-deficit disorder can be reversed.”
Mental health benefits of being in nature include:
- Improved mood
- Improved cognitive functioning
- Increased feelings of well-being
- Decreased anxiety
Even spending just half an hour per day outside can do wonders for our mental health. If you have limited exposure to outdoor spaces or vitamin D, vitamin D light therapy through a vitamin D can help. Vitamin D lamps can also help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
For more mental health tips, check out this blog post by Valera Health. If you’re interested in Valera Health’s services—including individual therapy, group therapy, psychiatry and medication management—sign up using this quick form to get connected with a designated Health Connector for a free consultation.