Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. This past December vacation we escaped the city to discover the relationship between nature & mental health.
2019 saw our lives rocked by mental health issues. It was an emotionally draining year that left us hitting rock bottom. Instead of a active and busy vacation, I planned a vacation focusing on rest and relaxation in nature.
Benefits of being in Nature
- Less Stress – No hustle and bustle. No traffic, road rage or crazy drivers. Certainly no alarm clocks. We succumbed to the rhythm of nature and life instantly slowed down. Days felt longer which meant we didn’t feel rushed and stressed.
- Calming & Increased Relaxation – Being in nature has the most incredibly calming effect. There’s absolutely no fighting it. We naturally embraced natures calming properties. After 3 days of de-urbanisation we started relaxing which was extremely calming.
- Improvement in Moods – At the end of 2019, we as a family were experiencing severe burnt out. We were all just miserable AF. We were snappy and horrible towards each other. Emotionally drained, we needed that vacation more than we knew. Exercising in nature definitely improves ones self-esteem and mood levels.
- Reduces Symptoms of ADHD – Being in nature and away from the demands placed on the kids is what our family needed. Ashton who is diagnosed with ADHD, definitely displayed reduced symptoms. We witnessed a noticeable improvement in his alertness and concentration. There was also a reduction in hyperactivity which meant improved focus. I need to mention that he does NOT use medication over weekend or during school holidays, so nature gets full credit.
- Increases Confidence & Self-Esteem – Engaging in exercise in nature activities showed significant improvements in self-esteem and mood levels. The boys first real horse riding experience was humbling for them. Horse riding taught them to trust the process. It definitely gave them lots to consider and was an instant confidence booster.
- Increases Connection and Social Interaction – The boys are generally sociable but are exceptionally shy at the same time. For the duration of our vacation the boys grew in confidence and interacted more often with people. They even left me alone to catch up on some much needed rest and sleep (which never happens).
- Increases Happiness – When we returned home Ashton commented that it was so nice to see me happy. I honestly didn’t realise he was observing me, but he was. Fact is that after tough conversations and healing we all experienced an increase in our happiness levels.
- Improves Sleep – Ashton is an insomniac but 3 days into our vacation and he was sleeping like a champ. Today marks 18 days since we returned from vacation and Ashton continues to sleep well. Natural light helps to regulate your natural body clock, and we got a good dose of sunshine.
- Reduces Inflammation – Research indicates that being in nature results in a reduction of inflammation, but I’ve been sceptical about this particular benefit. That was until I put my foot through its paces during our vacation, but absolutely no inflammation was experienced. Unreal, as I have been living with inflammation issues for 18 months. Then the most unthinkable thing happened, the day after returning to the city I awoke to a thoroughly sore and inflamed foot. Mind completely blown.
- Less Mental Health Symptoms – We noticed reductions in his levels of anxiety and depression. He was happier, more helpful and an absolute dream. It was a night and day difference and the greatest improvement in his condition we have witnessed in years. I can’t express enough how grateful I am that we are reaping the rewards from our time spent in nature.
3 Lessons Learnt
- We spent a big chunk of our vacation in or around water. Simply observing the movement of water or listening to its soothing sound helps calm our minds. Hence contributing to lowering depression, stress levels, anxiety and promoting better mental clarity and sleep patterns. Water indeed has healing powers and us water babies cannot get enough of it.
- There has been much research about the benefits of oxygen. While we need oxygen to survive there are other benefits. Oxygen helps reduce stress, increase energy and alertness. Oxygen also reduces the effects of headaches and sinus issues.
- Overall being in nature reduces anger, fear and stress. It also increases feelings of bliss. Time spent in nature not only makes you feel better emotionally but it contributes to physical well-being. It helps reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones.
All the Hype is True
The link between nature & mental health has completely changed our perception of life. 2020 will see us continue to spend more time in nature. It will also see us spend less time on social media. If anyone or anything in our lives fails to spark joy, then we will be closing that door. We are and have already started slowing things down. We are prioritising self care and mental health in 2020.