Nature and Your Mental Health

One of the greatest tools to promote physical and mental health, is coincidentally one of the most accessible… this tool being the natural world. Throughout history, nature has been a natural remedy for supporting our mental and physical health. But oftentimes in our modern world nature is set aside.

Instead, days are consumed in technology, with long hours indoors,  going days without letting our bare feet touch the earth. For these reasons, it is easy to see how we might begin to feel disconnected from nature. 

In the book The Nature Fix by Florence Williams, she shares a quote from a researcher named Miyazaki that states  “throughout our evolution, we’ve spent 99.9 percent of our time in nature. Our physiology is still adapted to it. During everyday life, a feeling of comfort can be achieved if our rhythms are synchronized with those of the environment”.

As this quote references, human beings have spent much of our existence living with nature, and so it makes sense that the further we get away from this, the worse we begin to feel.  

So why is nature so beneficial to us as humans?

Nature is beneficial to us for many reasons, but a big one is the role it plays on our nervous systems. For example, “the demands and constant stimuli of modern life tend to trigger our sympathetic nervous system, which governs fight or flight behaviors” says Williams.

Another great article you may be interested in: 6 Ways to Start Practicing Sleep Hygiene

The modern world and associated stimuli are unavoidable, so we have to figure out ways to counteract this gravitation toward being in the fight or flight from these factors.  This is where nature comes in, when we’re in nature our parasympathetic nervous system or our “rest and digest” system can kick in.

“During everyday life, a feeling of comfort can be achieved if our rhythms are synchronized with those of the environment.”

– Florence Williams

This happens because we begin to feel relaxed in our environment, we are reminded of our oneness with nature.  Miyazaki explains “ this is why food tastes better in the outdoors”, because our bodies are in a relaxed environment, we’re able to dive into our senses in this deeper, more natural way. 

Additionally, as Miyazaki states “naturalistic outdoor environments in general remain some of the only places where we engage all five senses, and thus, by definition, are fully, physically alive.” This is an empowering thought, if we want to feel more fully alive today, then nature adding more nature into our lives is a great place to start.  

So now we understand a couple of the reasons why nature is so beneficial. But what are some subtle ways to incorporate more nature into our lives? 

  • Enjoy a morning beverage of choice outside
  • Take a break in the middle of your day for a short 10 minute walk
  • Find somewhere each day to put your bare feet on the earth 
  • If you work from home, incorporate indoor plants into your living space
  • Eat at least one meal a day outside 
  • Go on a leisurely walk at the end of your day
  • Visit a local park or garden on the weekends
  • Find a physical activity that is centered around being outside (hiking, biking, trail running, etc). 

Williams, Florence. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.