Article and comment – At One with Nature
Being outside, in the natural environment, has very specific benefits for both our physical and mental health. For example, it boosts happiness, improves social drive and creativity, whilst reducing anxiety. However, there are ways to get the most from your outdoor experience:
- 2-3 hours a week in a natural, outdoor environment provides the optimal mental health benefits
- The benefits are greater when you seek it out, rather than just being around nature. For instance, going out on a journey to a natural, green area is more beneficial than just “being outdoors”. This is even if you live in a rural or ocean setting.
- Really taking in the setting and emerging yourself in the environment at the time has a greater restorative effect. This is compared to just being outdoors and reading a book, working outside or just socialising in an outdoor setting. Consequently, it makes it easier for us to use all of our senses to engage with the environment and be connected to the natural experience.
- Not having attention constantly re-directed with the distraction of a screen, urban noise, or other people allows us to restore drained cognitive reserves.
- Having a sense of wonder in our experience with nature helps inspire experiences of humility and self-reflection and are associated with positive emotions and mood. We often form a sense of identity with biodiverse environments we become familiar with, furthering our feeling of “belonging” to a part of the world.
Our personal relationships, employment status and sense of status have an enormous impact on our mental well-being. However, a regular connection to the natural environment that we seek out, is one more step we can take towards a calmer, less anxious self.
Webb, R (2021) At one with nature? New Scientist, 28th August 2021, No. 3349. P44-48.
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