Psychological Benefits of Being in Nature

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Immersing yourself in the natural world is a powerful experience. Not only is it good for your physical health, it’s also brilliant for your mental health. Studies show that, on average, people who spend at least 120 minutes a week in nature have higher morale and all-around better psychological health than those who don’t.

Our desire to escape the concrete jungle to be in a natural environment is deep-rooted in our evolution. Naturally, we are pulled towards green spaces as they encourage vitality and empowerment as we feel more connected to the earth.

Every day we face many pressures, whether it be work-related stress, social anxiety, or just an overall feeling of overwhelmingness. Nature benefits us in many ways and can be a great way to alleviate these pressures and improve our mental state.

Best Types of Environments for Psychological Benefits 

Spending time at the seaside or in a green space is a brilliant way to unwind and engage with a sense of freedom. Studies have shown that densely populated urban areas can create an overwhelming feeling, and getting away from the hustle and bustle can help you unwind and clear your head.

Our senses play an essential role in the emotions we feel. Harsh lighting and loud noises can feel overpowering and intense and can lead to us feeling stressed. Conversely, natural light and the serenity of outdoor spaces can have a soothing effect and can reconnect you to your inner calmness.

Cognitive Benefits of Being in Nature

There is no doubt that nature can make us feel more relaxed and clear-minded. However, being in natural environments also has many cognitive benefits and the power to improve our brain functioning.

Multiple studies have been carried out to find the effects of learning in the natural world. The results indicated an improved ability to focus and retain information, so it may be time to swap the traditional classroom for a more natural setting.

Additionally, studies found that when spending time outside, we are more likely to feel relaxed due to being further removed from aggravating things such as noise and chaos. When we feel relaxed, cortisol levels in the brain drop, allowing us to focus and concentrate more efficiently.

nature benefits

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Our physical and psychological health are linked very closely. Therefore, the healthier we feel physically, the more likely we will have a healthy state of mind. Some of the health benefits of being outdoors include:

  • Increased physical activity – the more time spent doing outdoor exercise, the better our physical fitness will be. As we exercise, feel-good hormones are released in our brain that help reduces stress and anxiety, boosting physical and mental health.
  • Improved breathing – most rural areas will have lower levels of air pollution compared to urban environments. Spending time in nature will help to improve your breathing due to better air quality.
  • Better sleep quality – sleep deficiency can be linked with increased health risks, and spending time outdoors is associated with health benefits. Studies have shown that the more time spent outside, the better sleep quality is likely to be.
  • Increased motivation – since happiness increases when we are in nature, our motivation will also increase. 
  • Increased immune system – being out in nature exposes us to a wide range of organisms which encourages the immune system to learn to fine-tune the balance between attack and tolerance mechanisms. This then leads to a better functioning immune system.
  • Lower blood pressure and stress – being out in nature has a calming effect. Feeling relaxed is likely to lower blood pressure and stress levels, improving overall well-being.

Decreased Feelings of Isolation

Human health can be very complex. Since the mind and body are related, our physical environment can impact our psychological health. When we spend time in built-up urban areas, it can be easy to get caught up in the flurry of everyday life. You can quickly feel like another face in the crowd, isolated and lonely.

Research has found that feelings of overcrowding experienced in urban areas increased loneliness by an average of 40%. However, when people could see natural environments, this figure fell by 28%. Therefore, more time in nature will likely increase mental health and well-being.

Benefits of Forest Bathing 

Forest bathing, also known as shinrin-yoku, was first established in Japan in the 1980s. Forest bathing involves sitting calmly amongst trees and observing nature around you whilst focusing on your breathing.

Studies into the benefits of this practice have shown that spending around two hours within a forest could help lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and improve cognitive abilities such as concentration and memory. Trees also release phytoncides, which have an anti-microbial effect on the body, helping to boost immunity. 

General Benefits 

Spending more time in nature has proven physical and mental health benefits, and exposing yourself to natural environments at a young age is important.

Being in nature also increases physical health due to increased physical activity. Furthermore, improved immune system function also increasingly contributes to a better standard of mental health. Spending time in natural spaces has many psychological benefits. 

At The Wave, we have close access to natural locations and encourage our young adults to immerse themselves as much as possible in natural settings. Malaysia is a wonderful place to find healing and sanctuary. Our tropical climate and year-round sunshine afford opportunities for activities and adventures that are not possible in many other locations.

Contact us today to find out more about the facilities we have on offer. 

Fiona - The Wave Clinic

Fiona Yassin is the founder and clinical director at The Wave Clinic. She is a U.K. and International registered Psychotherapist and Accredited Clinical Supervisor (U.K. and UNCG).

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