How nature helps with our mental health

In these first few weeks of the year, when most of the country is feeling the deepest chill of the season, connecting with nature could be the last thing on people’s minds – and yet it’s now that it’s so important for so many people.

When we spend time in nature, or when we bring nature indoors, our physical and mental wellbeing is supported. Our mood is improved, our stress reduced, our overall health generally enriched. Even loneliness is minimized when we get out into nature – even when we’re alone – because the connectedness to nature does so much for us, mentally and physically.

There are so many ways to increase the amount of time we spend exposed to nature. Some people think of nature and immediately think of things like hiking in the woods, swimming in lakes, or walking barefoot on beaches. Those are all great ideas. But if you live in Minnesota and your January means uncovering your car from a mountain of snow for numerous weeks of the year, you’re probably just dreaming about beachside strolls – not actually getting to them. But it doesn’t mean you can’t bring a piece of the outdoors in, like keeping tropical plants throughout the house, tending to an indoor garden, or keeping a small aquarium with some brightly colored fish. The healing powers of nature are just too strong to ignore.

Here's why.

We’re finding out that the cognitive benefits of nature interaction are plenty; when we’re exposed to green spaces and natural environments, we pay attention better, we’re more compassionate, and our capacity to remember rises. It turns out that even nature sounds – like crickets chirping and birds singing – have the tendency to help us think and feel better.

Happiness increases too when we’re exposed to nature. There’s mounting evidence that when we’re connected to nature, we have better social interactions, reduced risk of mood disorders, and increased positivity in how we feel about problems or challenges we might be having.

All this by just breathing in a little fresh air, touching a little grass, and looking up at some stars.

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