I’d like to introduce my friend Katie, who wrote this blog. She did lots of research on how nature can benefit our mental wellbeing. We both thoroughly enjoyed researching the topic and we hope that you’ll find it as interesting as we did. Katie and I are going to write more blogs together in future, so watch this space! If you’ve found the information useful, we’d be delighted if you’d like, share, follow and/or sign up for our future blogs. As you may have noticed, this website and blog are fairly new; my aim is to create blogs that give valuable information about my home country of Germany. I’d really appreciate your comments and if you have any questions, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my very best to reply as quickly as possible. Have a lovely day and enjoy reading this blog! Nadja x
“Every time you create a gap in the stream of mind, the light of consciousness grows strong.”
It’s no secret that nature makes us feel good. Taking a stroll in the local park means that we will be less stressed and much more relaxed to cope with life’s challenges. But just how much impact does it really have on our wellbeing? Can nature actually make us happy? It’s certainly true that being surrounded by green spaces will lift our mood, but is there any scientific evidence behind this theory? In 2011, (The Guardian Newspaper) reported that city dwellers were 21% more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders than those living in the countryside. Professor Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, from the University of Heidelberg, discovered that amygdala (the part of the brain that senses danger) was much more active in participants living in cities. There’s no denying that urban living can be stressful. We’re always chasing our tails as we go from one activity to another without even pausing for air. Society has conditioned us into thinking that if we’re not actively doing something, then we must be lazy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s essential for our health to pause and allow our brains time to recover. Too much pressure and mental overload for long periods of time will have an effect on our health. The body goes into fight or flight mode just to keep going. We become exhausted, our immune systems go into overdrive and, all too often, we become ill with conditions like depression and anxiety. Taking a short break or a holiday close to nature will allow our brains to have some downtime as well.
Nature is beautiful: Tree on a grass field with blue sky Copyright: Pixabay
Can nature improve our mental health?
Taking a brisk walk or a run through the woods will certainly clear the mind and release any pent-up tension. In fact, research has shown that nature really does go beyond just making us feel good; it can also be a good healer. In 2016, (Natural England) commissioned a study from the University of Essex and the mental health charity Mind. It revealed that mental health is on the increase with an estimated one in four of us experiencing some kind of mental health condition in any one year. The report documented how green spaces reduced depression, anxiety disorder and stress, as well as revealing a marked improvement in dementia related symptoms. Not only do people benefit from the healing power of nature, they also begin to increase their emotional resilience and self-esteem, as well as improving their social life – something that is so often missing in the lives of those suffering from depression or anxiety.
Nature in spring: Yellow crocuses in the sun Copyright: Pixabay
The new study by (Natural England), which reviewed the benefits of ‘green care’ for mental ill health, focussed on three main nature-based interventions. These included care farming, environmental conservation and therapeutic horticulture. (Ecotherapy) has become a very effective method in treating depression and anxiety disorders. By connecting us to the natural world around us, it helps us to connect with our ‘inner’ nature. (Mind) has funded more than 130 ecotherapy projects across the UK with £7.5m from the National Lottery fund. More than 12,000 people have made use of these projects, which includes gardening, growing food and conservation work. Ecotherapy also helps the practice of mindfulness. This type of therapy involves becoming more aware of ourselves in the present moment. By bringing our attention to the natural world, it helps shift our focus away from negative thoughts. (Green Gyms ) have also been working with Mind on a new project called Pro-Active Minds, which promotes resillience and wellbeing for those at risk of developing mental health conditions. Funded by the Department of Health, Pro-Active Minds utilises a volunteer-led, peer support model, within an ecotherapy setting.
How walking can work wonders for our mental health
Being physically active in beautiful surroundings will do wonders for our mood. Even a simple walk through the woods with our dogs after a demanding day can reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue. But why is walking so good for us? There are the obvious physical benefits of walking, like reducing the risk of heart disease, blood pressure and cancer, but is there any evidence of its benefits for mental health? (Walking for Health), Britain’s largest network of walking for health schemes, summarises the findings of a new review produced by the Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support. It was found that regular walking improves self-perception and self-esteem, mood and sleep quality. It states that physically active people have up to 30 per cent reduced risk of becoming depressed and staying active helps the recovery of those who are already suffering from depression. Walking is free and can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age. It’s gentle on the joints and doesn’t necessarily need any special clothing. Add in some beautiful countryside and we’re well on our way to a healthier mind.
A walk through the forest with sunlight coming through the trees – pure nature
Water is nature: Lake Chiemsee in Bavaria with a beautiful view of the Alps Copyright: Pixabay
Unique nature: UNESCO World Heritage Site Wadden Sea Copyright: Pixabay
Stunning nature: UNESCO World Heritage Site Middle Rhine Valley Copyright: Pixabay
Impressive nature: The Rheinsteig trail in the Middle Rhine Valley Copyright: Nadja Thom
Eckhart Tolle is an inspiring spiritual teacher and author of the book, The Power of Now. If you have a moment, take a look at his video, Being in Nature with Eckhart Tolle and discover first-hand what nature can do.
Spring has finally arrived! Why not enjoy the new season and spend some time in the great outdoors? We’re currently working on our next nature blog, which will be out soon. If you don’t want to miss it, why not subscribe to Holiday in Germany blogs here.
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