It's only natural

By Alice Baker.

Did you know that spending time in the natural environment like fields, trees, parks, gardens or by water actually helps your mental health. A lot of the messaging centres around the physical gains of getting out and about, but there is an increasing focus on the mental health benefits as well.

Getting out into nature has been scientifically shown to help with mental health issues such as mild depression and anxiety. There is even a certain type of therapy called ‘ecotherapy’ which centers around doing activities outside. The exact reasons behind the positive effects of nature on mental health are still being explored. A common explanation is that nature stimulates our senses in a way which puts our minds at ease. For example, listening to the gentle sounds of nature and even seeing natural shapes helps your mind feel more restful.

The idea of humans having an built-in link with nature is not a new one. In 1973, Erich Fromm used the term ‘biophilia’ to describe a love of nature. In 1984, Edward O. Wilson explored the idea of biophilia further and proposed that our bond with nature is rooted in our genetics.

Throughout human history the natural world has been a constant and is a deep rooted part of our cultures. As technology has progressed, humans have slowly taken themselves out of nature, both physically and mentally. Now, more than ever, it’s important to look after your mental health and get back into nature.

As you read at the start, going out for a good walk is a foolproof way to get the benefits of nature. If you needed another reason, May is National Walking Month and the perfect opportunity to explore some new areas!

Whether you’re going to your local park or venturing further afi

eld you can make your own adventure. Even if it’s only a short walk ‘round the block, you’re bound to spot something natural along the way.

Take a moment to recognise and appreciate the little bits of nature you see like trees, hedges and even little plants in the pavement.

If you don’t want to, or aren’t able to, go outside, you can bring nature to you instead. Adding a few potted plants, a window box or a vase of flowers will bring you the benefits. Even something as simple as changing your phone or computer background to a natural scene has been shown to help! There’s something out there for everyone.