The modern lifestyle is characterised by a constant stream of demands and distractions, leaving little time for self-care and relaxation. Many people spend most of their day indoors, surrounded by artificial lighting and technology. However, research has shown that this lack of exposure to nature can harm our mental health and well-being.
Fortunately, spending time in green spaces is an easy solution to this problem. Whether walking in the park, hiking in the woods, or simply sitting outside in the sunshine, spending time in natural environments has been linked to various mental health benefits. Studies have shown that spending time in green spaces can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, lower levels of stress hormones, improve mood, and increase feelings of happiness and well-being.
This blog will delve deeper into the benefits of spending time in green spaces and nature for mental health. By understanding the power of green spaces for mental health, we can take proactive steps to live happier, healthier lives.
The Science of Nature and Mental Health
The reason why nature can improve our mental health is still being understood. Some research suggests that connecting with the environment through bodily senses, such as smelling scents that trees and plants give off, contributes to many benefits. Moreover, being away from the presence of screens and technology has been shown to improve overall well-being.
There is a growing body of research examining how time spent in green spaces and nature can boost our mental health. Recent research that analysed fifty studies backed up evidence that nature-based activities such as hiking improve low moods, reduce anxiety, and stimulate positive effects for all participants.
In Canada, doctors can prescribe patients to spend time in nature in collaboration with their national parks. This stemmed from research which demonstrated that people who spent two hours or more in nature every week had better health and well-being than those who did not. Although green space is not a replacement for mental health and trauma treatment, it can be a great accessory. Many people report improved mood, energy, and clarity when spending time in nature.
Even in busy cities, people can still benefit from exploring nature in parks or by canals. Urban spaces can make it more challenging to spend time in nature, and some studies even point towards cities creating feelings of loneliness, However, taking advantage of local parks or exploring further afield is excellent for improving mood and boosting overall life satisfaction.
Blue spaces refer to any natural or artificial water environment, including oceans, lakes, rivers, and even swimming pools. Just like green spaces, blue spaces have numerous benefits for mental health and well-being, with a University of Sussex study finding that people were the happiest when in blue spaces, such as beside the sea.
Being near or in water can have an intensely calming effect on the brain. The sound of water promotes relaxation, reduces stress levels, and even improves memory, while the sight of water can have a restorative effect on mental fatigue.
Seeking out blue spaces can be an effective way to improve mental health and well-being. Whether it’s taking a dip in the ocean, swimming in a lake, or simply sitting by a river and listening to the sound of flowing water, it can have significant mental health benefits.
Benefits of Green Spaces for Mental Health
There are numerous benefits of spending time in nature for our mental health:
- Stress reduction – Spending time in green spaces can help reduce stress levels by promoting relaxation and a sense of calm. This can help to lower the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which is known to have detrimental effects on mental health, and high levels have been linked to anxiety and depression.
- Improved mood – Green spaces boost serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, contributing to happiness and well-being. Additionally, exposure to green spaces can help to reduce feelings of anger, frustration, and anxiety, as well as combat symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
- Boosted cognitive function – Being in nature has been linked to improved cognitive function, including increased attention span, memory, and creativity. This may be due to the therapeutic effects of nature on the brain and the reduced sensory overload that comes with being in a natural environment.
- Enhanced immune system – Research has shown that spending time in green spaces can help to boost the immune system, making the body more resilient to disease. This is thought to be due to phytoncides, organic compounds that plants release into the air. Phytoncides have been shown to have antimicrobial and immune-boosting effects that elevate white blood cells in the body to fight off illness.
- Pain management – Exposure to green spaces has been shown to have pain-reducing effects, particularly for chronic pain conditions. This is likely due to the distraction and relaxation of being in a natural environment and the positive effects on mood and stress levels.
- Better sleep – Spending time in green spaces has been linked to improved sleep quality and duration, possibly due to improved relaxation and reduced stress levels that come with being in nature. The effects of natural light and fresh air can also improve the circadian rhythm, which promotes a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
- Physical activity – There is a strong link between spending time outdoors and physical activity. Exercise in any form, indoors or outdoors, is great for both physical and mental health, but researchers have found that exercising outdoors can give people an extra boost, helping to reduce feelings such as sadness and fatigue.
No matter how people choose to spend time in nature, whether hiking in the woods or relaxing in the garden, it can significantly affect mental health and well-being. Even just ten minutes in a local park a few times a week can have a significant effect!
If you have a client or know of someone struggling with anything you have read in this blog, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential program and outpatient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long-lasting recovery. For more information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).
 Coventry PA, Brown JenniferVE, Pervin J, et al. Nature-based outdoor activities for mental and physical health: Systematic review and meta-analysis. SSM – Population Health. 2021;16. doi:10.1016/j.ssmph.2021.100934
 White MP, Alcock I, Grellier J, et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):7730. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3
 Kondo MC, Fluehr JM, McKeon T, Branas CC. Urban green space and its impact on human health. Vol. 15, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2018. p. 445.
 MacKerron, George and Mourato, Susana (2013) Happiness is greater in natural environments. Global environmental change. ISSN 0959-3780
 University of Colorado press release 2 February 2017. Available at: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-02/uoca-cgt020217.php
 Bowler DE, Buyung-Ali LM, Knight TM, Pullin AS. A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments. BMC Public Health. 2010;10.