"I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees."
- Henry David Thoreau
The Mental Health Foundation set the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week as Nature. As it is often said, ‘nature heals’ and this is shown by research that reveals that environments can increase or reduce our stress, which in turn impacts our bodies. What you are seeing, hearing, and experiencing at any moment is changing not only your mood, but how your nervous, endocrine, and immune systems are working.
Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. For example, research into ecotherapy (a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature) has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression. This might be due to combining regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature.
Below you can see just a few ways being in nature can help you.
Since March last year with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been even more important than ever to surround yourself with nature when possible. With seeing friends and family being limited, and many businesses and institutions being shut, much of what we would usually do to enjoy ourselves and destress became impossible.
On top of this, masses of people have experienced loss of loved ones, loss of income, and loneliness. All these factors and many more that people have suffered with over the last year are detrimental to our mental health.
Below you can see the staggering rise in reports of anxiety and depression from 2019 to 2021, before and during the pandemic.
According to a series of studies conducted by Kuo and Coley at the Human-Environment Research Lab, time spent in nature connects us to each other and to the larger world. It has been evident this past year, when out in nature many people are happier and more relaxed, as it is often the only time some people will interact with others and be able to share a smile. This was seen as common behaviour before the pandemic, but now to lots of people has become a rarity and something that is treasured.
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