Spending time in nature

Being connected to nature can bost positive mental well-being. But how can we bring more nature into our everyday life?

by Oliver Østergaard

Nature and mental health

In our busy lives, it can sometimes be hard to prioritize the things that are good for our mental health. Luckily, a great source of mental relief and energy can often be found in nature.

Take a trip to the countryside, hike through the woods, or even just go for a walk in the park - all these activities have great cognitive benefits that we can achieve simply by spending more time in nature.

The reason our minds crave the presence of nature may be a combination of factors. From an evolutionary perspective, it would seem that we have an innate desire to be in wild settings because this is the environment we evolved in, but there are also other factors that play a great role in our connectedness to nature.

How does being in nature affect mental health?

Green environments have been shown to promote self-control behaviors and concentration as well as improve working memory and cognitive flexibility (Current Directions in Psychological Science).

Spending time in nature also comes with emotions like calmness, creativity and joy. Some researchers have found that contact with nature is associated with increased subjective well-being, especially in lower levels of depression and anxiety, and a sense of meaning in life as well as other existential benefits.

How can we get more nature into our daily life?

  • Spend time in the nature

If you have access to nature (ocean, lake, forest, mountains, park), then you can go for a walk, hike, run or bike ride by yourself or alongside others.

However, if you live in an environment with limited access to nature, like a big city, there are other tricks to harvest some benefits from nature:

  • Nature on the screen

If your view only shows the roaring of an urban jungle, you can still compensate by bringing nature into your home through photos and videoes. Yes, even just watching nature on a screen can improve attention and positive emotions even though it isn’t quite as effective as the real thing. So switching wallpaper is no longer just a question of aesthetics.

  • The sound of nature

Another way to get nature into busy city life is through sound. Try to block out some of the traffic noise and street clatter with a good set of headphones playing the sounds of crashing waves or chirping birds. Simply changing the sound we hear can help us perform better when we need to concentrate.

  • Buying plants or flowers

Obvious advice, but few tricks can compete with the real deal. There are a lot of different plants - some more difficult to take care of than others, but it is not so much about having the right kind of plants as it is about just having plants in your home. Even a humble aloe vera plant can greatly improve your indoor climate and they are very easy to take care of.

Check out other articles I've written:

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