Nature provides incredible healing properties for physical and mental health. However, society recognizes technology and social media as the primary source of connection for self-esteem, thus neglecting the power of healing that nature holds. When you take the opportunity to disconnect with technology and connect with nature, you will inevitably experience significant benefits for your mental health.
Lessons You Can Learn From Nature
To better understand how nature can impact mental health, it is essential to recognize specific factors of nature that make it so profound. To do this, you must reflect on what nature is.
Nature is never in a hurry. As the grass, trees, and other plants grow, they never do so in a rush. They trust their environment. They trust that the rain will fall to water them and that the sun will come out to nourish and provide for them.
Nature is flexible and resilient. Plants and animals alike are known to adapt to the environment that they are in. The science behind evolution refers to the process of how living organisms change over time as they fight for the survival of the fittest.
Nature is ever-changing. Ecosystems are always changing as their organisms react, evolve, migrate, and create new communities. There is never one community or one species that remains predictable as the years go by.
How Is Nature Healing?
Extensive research recognizes the benefits that exposure to nature has on healing mental health. Several of these benefits include:
Improved Brain Activity
Nature has the ability to improve brain activity. This is because being in nature can help you clear your head and bring you into the present moment. Nature emphasizes similar benefits that mindfulness can have on mental health, especially related to increased activity in the brain.
Reduced Stress Levels
When brain activity is improved, emotions like stress and anxiety become regulated. On a physical level, being in nature can lower blood pressure, lower stress hormone levels, and reduce nervous system arousal, which can result in reduced feelings of stress.
Improved brain activity can also promote neurotransmitter signals involved in producing feelings of happiness. Endorphin levels and dopamine production both increase when exposed to nature.
When deprived of sleep, you are at an increased risk of developing severe physical and mental health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. Sleep is necessary to keep the immune systems strong and healthy, which can combat illness. When you allow yourself to spend time in nature, you are connecting with your internal clock.
Soaking in the sun increases the brain’s serotonin neurotransmitter, which boosts mood and is also responsible for keeping you awake during the day. Similarly, exposure to dark light triggers the brain to increase melatonin production, which helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep more soundly.
Nature Is a Valuable Coping Mechanism
Nature is soothing. Humans are programmed to find peace among the beauty of nature. Whether it be watching the flow of water down a stream or tuning into the delicacy of leaves on a tree, you can be absorbed by nature. Nature provides an incredibly valuable distraction from pain and discomfort, especially as you connect with the greater environment around you.
Ways to Engage With Nature
While nature provides incredible benefits, those benefits cannot be received without directly engaging with nature. Although you can connect with nature simply by going for a walk or breathing the air outside, there are more intimate ways that you can go about interacting with it.
- Make observations. Once you give yourself time to make direct observations of nature, you may be shocked at what you find. Even the same plant sitting outside for years may look different when you visualize it up close or feel it with your hands. Take time each day to notice something new in your environment.
- Ask questions. Nature has all of the answers that you may seek. The next time you find yourself walking on a trail or around your neighborhood, have a sense of wonder. Never lose this sense for creation itself.
- Ground yourself. When was the last time you found yourself barefoot with your feet on the grass or dirt? Nature is who you are. A great way to interact with nature is by walking barefoot on natural ground. You can even turn it into a meditative practice by taking deep breaths and envisioning the energy from the ground cycle into your body and back into the ground.
- Engage in outdoor activities. Let your imagination run wild with this one. Any activity done outside can be an opportunity to connect with nature. Some examples include white water rafting, biking, fishing, or even owning a butterfly habitat.
Nature can produce endless benefits for mental health. Exposure to nature increases activity in the brain, leading to reduced stress levels and increased feelings of happiness. Nature can improve your sleep cycles and is proven to be a valuable coping mechanism for navigating physical and mental pain. Explore different ways to engage with nature, such as making direct observations and grounding yourself physically. SoCal Mental Health is a treatment center for mental health and substance use problems that recognizes the value that nature has on mental health. We offer different therapy approaches, some of which allow you to connect with your environment as you experience therapy. We offer individualized treatment programs for all of our clients to make the treatment process as healing as possible. To learn more about our treatment programs, give us a call today at (888) 627-6225.