Therapeutic Effects of Nature
I have suffered from depression most of my life. A few years ago I was diagnosed with depression and put on an SSRI. I remained on it for about two years, and with the help of a psychiatrist I weened off. About a year later I was having bad episodes again and was diagnosed with bipolar II, which is different. I follow a holistic, organic, and plant-based lifestyle. While I experienced first hand the help of medication, I am always looking for a way to help ease my depression naturally.
One of the most therapeutic activities environments I have been in is nature. It could be feeling the sand between my toes while I anticipate the lap of cold water from waves to wash over my feet. Sometimes it’s a hike, leaving the bustling noise of an impatient city to surround myself with greenery and the silence of trees. Other times it’s the simplicity of stepping in the grass with my bare feet, otherwise known as grounding, a practice to reconnect with the earth. Here are four reasons to get outdoors the next time you’re feeling blue.
TUNE IN, DROP OUT
Much research has been done over the years to report back the powers of nature on our mental health and wellbeing. Tuning into nature will allow you to drop feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. According to a 2015 study cited by Harvard, “researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people after they walked for 90 minutes in either a natural setting or an urban one. They found that those who did a nature walk had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is active during rumination,” the term used when we run through negative thoughts on repeat. Being in nature has a soothing effect that calm’s the body’s fight or flight response.
Being in nature will help calm your mood, blood pressure, and negative emotions. This in turn can help you be more relaxed when bedtime rolls around. Some studies show that prolonged time in nature, such as camping, can realign us with our natural circadian rhythms also. According to WebMD, “a week of summer camping -- with no smartphones -- reset people's internal clocks to be in rhythm with nature's.”
If you’re not feeling the solo trip in nature, use the escape as a different way to connect with the people you care about. Escaping to nature with your partner and friends offers up new ways to connect. Hiking with my friends is a healthy alternative to spending money or being in crowds when I’m feeling stressed and depressed.
With the stress of being indoors, or living in a city, our aggression levels are reaching new heights in 2020. A study from Yale showed the “effects of nature may go deeper than providing a sense of well-being, helping to reduce crime and aggression”.
Get in touch with nature by hiking, walking, biking, sunning on the beach, swimming, playing sports on the beach or in a park or any other number of activities to tune back into your baseline. COVID has limited our ways of enjoying life, and increased ways to feel stressed. I make a pact with myself to get outdoors, with or without a companion, every Saturday to level out my mental health.