- Increasing your exposure to nature can lead to improved physical and mental health, research proves.
- Research publications associates increased exposure to natural environment and reduced neural activity in regions of the brains associated with mental illness compared to those exposed to urban environment.
- Exposure to natural environments shows potential in improving short-term attention functioning.
Here are five ways that being in nature can affect your mental well-being.
1. It Leads To Long-Term, Positive Effects On Your Mental Health
Environmental Science & Technology published a research article about the potential effects of exposure to natural environment to mental health. Results indicate immediate improvement in mental health and less mental distress in test participants subjected to greener environment. These research findings corroborate with previous works of other researchers that are in support of increasing the number of public parks in cities to improve public health.
Lead Researcher Dr. Ian Alcock said in a statement that “these findings are important for urban planners thinking about introducing new green spaces to our towns and cities, suggesting they could provide long-term and sustained benefits for local communities.”
2. It Reduces Neural Activity In Regions Of The Brain Associated With Depression
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the United States of America published a research study that demonstrates the effects of increased exposure to nature. Test participants exposed to a natural environment showed reduced neural activity in subgenual prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with depression compared to test participants who walked through an urban environment for the same time period.
These research findings suggest that exposure to natural environment results in an almost immediate positive effect on mental health.
3. Exposure Leads To All-Around Wellness
Environmental Research published 143 research studies on potential health benefits of increased exposure to natural environment. These publications associate this increased exposure to improved heart rate and blood pressure, reductions in cholesterol levels, improved sleep duration and positive neurological outcomes.
More research studies connect exposure to natural environment to reduced predisposition to type II diabetes, cardiovascular mortality, and overall mortality.
4. Increased Exposure Reduces Stress
The positive effects of increased exposure to natural environment are classified into three separate settings, research shows. Behavioral Sciences published a research journal on the relation between decreasing physical and psychological markers of stress and exposure to natural environment. Test participants subjected to wilderness setting reported most decreased levels of stress, relative to the test participants exposed to urban setting close to a natural environment and urban setting without a natural environment.
These results suggest that camping or hiking trips reduce physical and psychological stress the most.
5. It Leads To Improved Attention Control And Functioning
Exposure to pictures of nature shows potential in improving attention functioning in young adults, per a 2008 research published in Psychological Science.
Recently, significant improvements in attention control are observed in test participants, classified under different age groups, after exposure to pictures of nature. The experiment was carried out before and immediately after the exposure of test participants to pictures of nature. The data shows that test participants under age groups older adults and university-aged improve short-term attention and memory. This research publication is available for public view in Experimental Aging Research.