Did you know that people that live in the busiest cities are most likely to have mental illness??!
Our brains are not designed to cope with living in man-made urban populations. Think about it…are you a city dweller? Generally how stressed are you on a day-to-day basis. City folk are more likely to be stressed compared to people that live in small towns or the country side.
Before you walk away, I’m not telling you to up and leave the city because that’s not practical but I am about to explain the positive effects of nature and how you can incorporate a little nature into your everyday lives to reap the amazing benefits including improving your mood, memory and even reducing ADHD in children.
The idea that nature is good for our mental health is not a foreign concept. Edward O.Wilson explores the theory that the connection we have with nature roots deep in our biology and genetics (Biophilia 1984).
Likewise the practise of forest bathing was prescribed by Japanese doctors. It’s been proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress, help improve the immune system, and encourage general wellbeing.
However until recently strong scientific evidence backing these theories was scarce. Research shows that something as small as seeing a pear tree every day could have a great impact on mental health.
If you think about it, humans have been interacting with nature continuously since the beginning of time like every other animal on the planet. It’s easy to forget that people are a part of nature nowadays as many of us live away from nature in a civilisation which has removed everything natural possible. With increasingly urban populations developing, natural environments have taken a hit which leaves most of us secluded from nature.
The positive effects of nature include;
- Reduced stress
- Improved mood
- Improved cognitive performance
Now I’ll try to explain some of the theories to you best I can;
This theory explains that positive reactions to nature are programmed by evolution.
Nature was the first place that humans learned to survive (think caveman…Adam and Eve…the ice age) by gathering resouces around them just as their ancestors before them had done.
That’s right – pre-bottled Evian water didn’t just exist conveniently. Apparently the reason that we find nature so beautiful stems from a place of survival. Food and water has always helped us to survive so it’s expected that we find these things beautiful and enjoy being around them.
Attention Restoration Theory
Natural environments provide a place where you can restore your ‘directed attention’ – this is your conscious attention that you need for cognitive tasks. Your cognitive focus can become blurry and tired after long periods of mental activity.
Most people (yes city dwellers – that means you) live crazy hectic lifestyles The sad bit is, it’s the norm now. We are so used to living in man made environments filled with social and professional demands.
You’ve got to work long hours in a grey office, hit your targets at work, go out every Friday night, be sure to Snapchat it all, whilst keeping up with current fashion trends, nourish your relationships, but also keep up with societies idea of beautiful whilst you work out at the gym. You’ve got to eat well but make sure you take a pic for Instagram before you enjoy it, keep up with Game of Thrones to keep current but also get all the house work done.
Yes it’s exhausting.
Nature offers a different setting altogether. It distracts us from the stresses of “civilised” (I hate that word) life. It does this so that our ‘directed attention’ (aka Subconscious) can step up. It’s as if nature recharges our mental batteries.
A slightly different approach to this explains the effects of nature using a biopsychological explanation.
Bacterium is something commonly found in soil and it supposedly contributes to our mental happiness. This doesn’t cover it all though because both being in nature and seeing pictures of nature can enhance your wellbeing. Saying that, you generally get a stronger reception actually being in nature as opposed to looking at a picture of one.
Studies have shown that a bacterium called mycobacterium vaccae has led to high levels of serotonin in the brains of mice. Serotonin is really important in maintaining a positive mood. These mice have gone on to learn mazes quicker and have had fewer anxiety issues proving that being in nature does something to your brain to make you feel better and improve your congestive function.
Ever heard of a natural high? It may well be true if you’re spending time in nature. Some hallucinogenic substances called entheogens are fond naturally in plants all over the world.
Entheogens can help promote a positive mental state when used correctly. A lot of these substances work through serotonin. They bring about the same effects as medication does helping you feel connected to the world around you.
How to get in your daily dose of nature
Even if your a city-gal like me, you can get in your nature fix daily. I’ve listed some tips below that should help your mental wellbeing;
- Set your phone and desktop background to a picture of nature – flowers/trees/a natural landscape
- Looking at pictures of nature gives you some of the positives effects on a smaller scale – every little helps
- Walk in a natural environment on a daily basis. On the way to/from work take the scenic route.
- Exercise in a park?
- Even the city has natural environments on a small scale. Local gardens and small parks of flower features. Have your lunch break in one of these spots! Great way to break up a stressful day at work.
- Hiking trail
- Keep plants at your desk and around your house
So to conclude….
Regardless of how secluded a lot of us may be from natural environments, as humans we still have a positive reaction to nature. There’s a really famous study which proved that people who had been hospitalised recovered quicker with the view of trees outside their windows as opposed to a brick wall. I
t’s important not to confine yourself within the 4 walls of work/home or whatever it may be. Try it for yourself and spend some time in nature and see what a difference it makes. Personally I start itching to get away from the city every once in while so I can detox my brain and be ZEN! F*** therapy – nature is way cheaper.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post. I know it was a lot more of an educational post than usual so please do let me know if you enjoyed it. Until next time!