How Nature Can Nurture Your Mental Well-being

In honor of World Mental Health Day, we’re highlighting nature’s unique potential to improve your mental well-being.

Published on: October 7, 2022

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There are countless studies that prove being around nature—and maintaining a personal connection with nature—lend numerous cognitive and emotional benefits. Did you know that simply looking at green and blue spaces (even virtually) can improve your mood, memory, and mental health?

As a brand that strives to deepen your connection with nature in everything we do, we’re passionate about helping you understand why this connection is so important. Not only does an enduring connection with nature work wonders for your mental health, but it also encourages a deeper appreciation for the environment—inspiring you to consciously care for it.

Nature’s Cognitive & Mental Health Benefits

For decades, the world of psychology has been discussing the emotional, existential, and cognitive benefits that nature imparts. While it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the mental health advice out there, we hope it’s soothing to know that nature is always there for you as a free source of support.

Emotional & Existential Benefits

  • Sense of Wellbeing, Purpose and Meaning: Contact with nature has a direct link to happiness, positive social interactions and a deepened sense of meaning and purpose.
     
  • Sense of Awe: Have you ever gazed out at the ocean, and it reaches so far that it melts into the sky? Views like this inspire a true sense of awe—a sense of “something greater than yourself,” which can provide perspective, expand your mind, and remind you of what’s important in life.
     
  • Sensory Soothing: In nature, you’re surrounded by unique and dynamic sounds, textures, smells, and sights—all of which can soothe your senses. If you’re greeted by a smell or sight that you once experienced in childhood, a sweet sense of nostalgia might wash over you and provide you comfort.
     
  • Mindfulness: Nature is always changing—from season to season and second to second. Whether you’re watching rippling water or swaying trees, these dynamic sights capture your attention and center you in the present moment.

Cognitive Benefits

  • Stress Reduction: Psychology’s stress reduction hypothesis suggests that more time in nature lowers stress levels by releasing a calming physiological response—lowered heart rate, breathing rate, and stress hormone production.
     
  • Cognitive Flexibility: A 2019 study concluded that participants who listened to the sounds of crickets and crashing waves performed better on cognitive tests than those who listened to the sounds of traffic and a bustling café.
     
  • Attention Control: Psychology’s restoration theory suggests that nature has the ability to replenish your cognitive resources, enhancing your concentration and attention.
     
  • Improved Memory: One study found that spending just one hour in nature can improve your memory function by 20%.
     
  • Reduced Risk of Psychiatric Disorders: Studies have shown that children who grow up near nature are less likely to develop psychiatric disorders later in life.

What a “Connection to Nature” Actually Means

In psychology, the biophilia hypothesis claims that we have an innate desire to connect with nature. Not long ago (in the eyes of evolution), our ancestors lived in wild settings and relied on nature for survival. In the modern world, life’s demands tend to pull us away from nature, leading to higher stress, lower sense of purpose, and numerous unmet needs.

So what, exactly, is a “connection to nature”?

It’s your enduring relationship with the natural world and your conscious awareness of your emotions, attitudes, and behaviors toward it. To take it a step further, many studies suggest that someone whose self-concept (your ideas and beliefs about yourself) intertwines with nature is generally happier than someone whose self-concept dismisses nature. This connection to nature may not be the only (or biggest) predictor of happiness, but in the world of psychology—it’s an undeniable one.

The good news is that you don’t have to be physically immersed in nature at all times to maintain this connection. Studies show that simply being around urban green and blue spaces (rivers, canals, fountains, parks) can foster a connection with nature—as well as watching or listening to videos of nature that showcase biodiversity. Even a few minutes of exposure per day has been shown to make a significant difference.

This concept is especially important for those at a socioeconomic disadvantage, such as BIPOC communities who have been systematically pushed away from natural spaces and forced towards highly polluted areas. We encourage you to explore our previous story, Green Spaces & Transportation for All, where we dive deeper into the historic inequities associated with national parks and public green spaces in the US.

At each of our sanctuaries, we take pride in helping you—and everyone—foster a connection with nature. Whether that sanctuary is next to the ocean or in the middle of the city, we’re always thinking of new ways to infuse nature into every sight, sip, and experience. Not only does this work wonders for your overall well-being, but it also inspires you to care deeper for the world around you.

Because once we acknowledge and appreciate nature’s ability to help us feel calm, connected, and complete, we feel a deeper obligation to care for it.

To minimize the use of plastic in your own life, look around your home and work to identify plastic items. From there, seek to find alternatives.