10 ways to connect with nature and improve mental health

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Written By Margonoe Tumindax

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If you live in a city amid air and noise pollution, you may be wary about spending time outdoors. But in reality, spending some time in nature every day has a calming effect on mind that cannot be ignored. It has many other health benefits too. Let us tell you some ways to connect with nature to improve your mental health.

Walking or sitting in a place that makes you feel in touch with nature for at least 20 minutes in a day can lower your stress hormone levels, as per a 2019 study published in the Frontiers in Psychology.

Connecting with nature is good for your mental health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What are the mental health benefits of connecting with nature?

Connecting with nature is good for your mental health due to many reasons.

1. It can ease stress

Natural settings can help to reduce stress, says psychiatrist Dr Sanil Sinhasan. Green spaces and nature have a calming effect on the nervous system, lowering stress hormones and promoting relaxation.

2. Uplift mood

Spending time outdoors increases serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter linked to better mood, leading to less anxiety and depression. Sunlight exposure also helps to regulate sleep patterns. If you sleep well, you will be in a better mood the following day.

3. Mindful living

Nature encourages mindfulness and reduces mental fatigue. Engaging with the natural world helps to focus on the present moment, reducing overthinking and mental tiredness. This will lead to improved thinking and attention.

4. Improve social bonds

Be it through group activities or sharing outdoor spaces, socialising in nature creates a sense of belonging and support. Social bonds are important for your mental health.

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5. Mental well-being

Exercising in natural settings improves overall mental well-being. Outdoor exercise boosts self-esteem, enhances thinking, and provides a sense of accomplishment.

6. Enhanced cognitive abilities

Exposure to nature sparks creativity and problem-solving. Time spent in natural surroundings is linked to improved thinking and a greater capacity for innovative ideas, says the expert.

What are ways to connect with nature for mental health?

A lack of exposure to natural environments is associated with increased stress levels. Without the calming influence of nature, people may experience heightened cortisol levels, leading to chronic stress and its associated negative impacts on mental well-being.

So, connect with nature by doing the following:

1. Regularly walk in natural settings

Walking in natural settings on a daily basis provides exercise and exposure to greenery, reducing stress and promoting overall mental well-being. The physical activity releases endorphins, contributing to improved mood, says Dr Sinhasan.

Woman walking on grass
Regularly walk in natural settings for better mental health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Practice mindful observation

Immerse yourself in nature without distractions. Focus on the nature sounds, sights and sensations around you. This fosters a sense of presence and can alleviate stress and anxiety.

3. Meditate

Meditation sessions can be held anywhere. But doing it in nature can enhance mindfulness as well as emotional balance.

4. Keep a nature journal

Keeping a nature journal to document your experiences, thoughts and feelings while in natural settings can promote self-awareness. It can provide an outlet for expressing yourself well.

5. Engage in nature photography

Taking photographs in nature allows for a deeper connection with the environment. It fosters creativity and emotional expression.

6. Do gardening

Gardening is not just about nurturing plants. It is a physical activity that also provides a sense of accomplishment. It also connects people with the natural cycle of growth and renewal.

7. Workout outdoors

Whether it’s jogging, yoga or other activities, doing them in nature enhances the benefits by combining physical activity with exposure to fresh air and natural surroundings.

8. Plan occasional nature retreats

Planning nature retreats allows for a break from daily stressors. This encourages relaxation and a deeper connection with the natural world.

9. Volunteer for environmental projects

Contributing to the well-being of nature fosters a sense of purpose and community. It positively impacts your mental health.

10. Take a break from technology

Unplug from digital devices and spend time in nature without distractions. This break from technology allows for a mental reset, reducing the impact of constant connectivity on stress levels and cognitive load.

Follow these tips and connect with nature.

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