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The Impact of Nature on Mental Health

February 15, 2024

Has an outside walk ever made you feel better? You’re not alone. This is because nature has a substantial impact on your mood. It provides a natural solution for stress and improves your emotional state.  


This means immersing yourself in nature could greatly improve your mood, giving you a break from the pressures of modern life. But why and how does nature have such a positive impact on your mind? 


Let’s explore the relationship between nature and your mood. 

What are the psychological benefits of nature?  

Numerous studies continue to emphasize the mental benefits that nature offers. This presents a compelling case for integrating it into our daily routines.  Being stuck inside all day could mean missing out on the following psychological benefits: 

Stress reduction  

Nature could actually have a positive impact on our mental well-being. This means a simple walk might reduce your stress. Kaplan and Kaplan (1989) found that people who spent time outside had less stress, especially compared to those living in urban areas without access to greenery. 


The Japanese tradition of forest bathing can also reduce stress. These methods involve immersing yourself in a relaxing forest environment. The natural surroundings provide calming sensory experiences to soothe your mind. Physiological changes support nature's calming effect. Nature offers various sensory experiences that promote relaxation.  

Improved mood and happiness 

Did you know that being outside can make you happier? This is because spending time outside releases more endorphins. These are hormones that naturally boost your mood. 


White et al. (2019actually found that people who participated in outdoor activities felt happier and more satisfied. You can spend more time outside to reduce symptoms of low mood and anxiety, too.  

Better creativity and cognitive function  

Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer (2012) told people to spend a few days in the great outdoors surrounded by nature. The results showed that these people experienced a 50% increase in their problem-solving and creativity skills. This suggests that time spent in natural surroundings can restore and rejuvenate the brain.  

The connection between nature and mental health 

Biologist Edward O. Wilson posited the notion of biophilia. This concept suggests that humans have a natural desire to connect with nature. This connection is actually a fundamental part of our evolution, as our ancestors depended on nature for their survival.   


Research also suggests that being in nature can have a positive impact on our emotions and overall health. For example, the sight of green plants and the smell of fresh air can all contribute to a sense of calm and contentment. 


Richard Louv also introduced the concept of a “nature deficit disorder. This concept explains the negative consequences of limited contact with nature. Nature deficit disorder has an impact on people of all ages.  


Nature deficit disorder is linked to various mental health issues, including increased stress, anxiety, and depression. If you don’t expose yourself to nature, you could feel disconnected and less capable of dealing with personal challenges.  

What is ecotherapy and how can it help?  

Long ago, ancient customs found that natural environments were beneficial for human health. Many studies found that individuals who tried ecotherapy had less stress and better moods. This was different compared to those in regular indoor therapy.   


Being outside can actually boost serotonin production. This is the neurotransmitter that regulates your mood. Numerous therapists now incorporate outdoor elements into their sessions to provide a calming space for people. 


However, it’s essential to remember that any form of ecotherapy is more of an adjunct therapy to maximize your main psychological treatment. This means you should choose ecotherapy as an additional option to improve your mental health.  


Below are types of ecotherapy: 

Wilderness therapy  

Wilderness therapy involves trying new hobbies outdoors. These hobbies could be hiking, camping, or even rock climbing. The main goal is to connect people with nature. This promotes your personal growth and self-reflection.  

Horticulture therapy  

Plant lovers will probably be most drawn to horticulture therapy. This involves planting and harvesting crops. Research has proven that horticulture therapy can help alleviate low moods and anxiety symptoms over time.  

Animal-assisted therapy 

Do you love animals? Then animal-assisted therapy is the right choice for you! This therapy uses animals to support your emotional recovery. These therapy sessions usually involve dogs, horses, and other animals to offer companionship.  


10 practical tips for incorporating nature into your daily life 

Finding the time to go outside can be difficult if you have a busy routine. However, following these simple tips can help you enjoy nature’s mental health benefits.  

1. Morning nature rituals  

You should always add nature to your morning routine. It’s worth going for a 5-minute walk through a green area near you to wake up in the morning. You could also stand on your balcony if you have one. Even this small step can leave you feeling energized. 

2. Outdoor lunch break  

Would you rather explore a beautiful park or sit at your desk? Getting fresh air can enhance your mind and give you a much-needed energy boost. A simple walk could even boost your productivity! 


3. Nature walks or hikes  

Schedule regular nature walks or hikes, even if they are short. You have the opportunity to discover nearby trails, nature reserves, or parks. This can help you stay active and experience the peaceful beauty of the natural surroundings. 

4. Create a nature-friendly workspace 

If possible, personalize your workspace with elements of nature. You could add potted plants, natural artwork, or even a small desktop fountain. These additions help create a peaceful workspace that brings the outdoors inside! 

5. Digital detox in green spaces 

You should set aside dedicated time to unplug your electronic gadgets. This will give you enough time in the day to enjoy nature.  Whether you want a picnic on the weekend or decide to explore a botanical garden, taking a break from your digital screen can improve your mental well-being. 

6. Gardening therapy  

You could consider getting a small garden! Gardening has various therapeutic benefits for your health. It allows you to connect with the Earth and witness the amazing growth of plants. Even if you only have a balcony or windowsill, you can still accommodate potted plants or herbs.  

7. Mindful nature observation  

It’s worth practising mindfulness every morning. You can do this by sparing a few minutes to observe the outside. Whether it’s watching the birds or the sunset, these moments of mindful observation can help keep you grounded as you enjoy a tranquil moment.  

8. Nature-inspired exercise  

You should choose outdoor physical activities to make the most of nature near you. This includes doing yoga in the park, trail running, or joining outdoor fitness classes. All of these can enhance your physical and mental well-being!  

9. Weekend nature retreats  

Take time out for occasional weekend trips to natural surroundings. This means you could go camping or hiking in the mountains. These getaways can refresh your mind and help you feel less stressed as you work up a sweat in the glorious outdoors.  

10. Connect with nature communities  

Consider joining local nature groups or communities that arrange outdoor activities. This can enhance your nature experiences and create an engaging community. You can also connect with people who share similar interests.  


So, now you know that nature can help reduce your stress and elevate your mood. This means you can improve your mental well-being by going outside more. Try incorporating these nature-focused practices into your daily routine. This means taking small steps to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed. Start with something simple like taking a morning walk in a green space near you.  


Just remember that ecotherapy does not replace psychological support for mental health conditions. It’s an adjunct therapy that will increase the effectiveness of your main treatment. You should always seek a psychologist who can identify your mental health concerns and find the best treatment.   


For more mental health tips and advice, check out our OPA resources. We have a WSIB Community Mental Health Program along with tips for finding a psychologist.  


You can also find a psychologist by completing our form!