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The Benefits of Nature on Mental Health

Sometimes all you need to do is escape.

If you have ever gone for a walk to feel better after a rough day, you know that being outdoors can have positive effects on the psyche. While expending the energy from walking also provides benefits, just being exposed to nature has been found to be emotionally and psychologically advantageous. Scientific research continues to uncover new ways that nature promotes a more stable state of mind.

Relieve Pent-Up Stress

While exercise is beneficial in itself, you don't really have to do anything. Just being outdoors has a tremendous effect on the mind. Watching the sunset or listening to the birds chirping can be enough to relax the mind and reduce stress. While our careers may take us deeper into the concrete jungle, living a life with a greater balance between urban and eden can help relieve the stress of city life. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School found that people living closer to nature had lower levels of stress. A different study conducted in Sweden found that simply viewing images of nature was enough to relieve stress.

Reduce Depressive Episodes

Researchers have also found that living in a more natural environment helped relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Conducting a study on patients in a mental health facility, researchers in the Netherlands found that symptoms were reduced in patients who lived closer to nature and open spaces. Those living within one half mile of the countryside were found to have improved the most as far as experiencing symptoms related to depression or anxiety.

Boost Your Creativity and Productivity

You don't have to be suffering from mental illness to enjoy the benefits that nature has to offer. If a problem has you stumped or you're experiencing a block in creativity, a walk in nature may be all that you need to overcome that obstacle. A 2012 study found that cognitive functioning was enhanced by just a short walk in nature, helping subjects feel more productive upon returning to a task. While it may not seem helpful, getting outside for a few minutes can recharge your mind and help you come at a problem from a new perspective.

Enhance Your Feeling of Self-Worth

Perspectives in Public Health conducted a 2012 research project with individuals suffering from various mental health problems. The study was intended to determine how physical activity conducted in an outdoor setting would affect the mind. They found that self-esteem was boosted and each individual experienced elevated moods in general. An earlier and unrelated study discovered that mood was enhanced in anyone who participated in "green" exercise, but that the greatest benefits were enjoyed by those who were struggling with mental illness. Additionally, younger subjects exhibited the biggest emotional changes than older test subjects

Enhance Your Ability to Focus

In examining the effects of nature on students, researchers have found that those who take the time to observe nature perform better on tests. Something as simple as looking at a tree helps focus the mind and improves one's ability to pay attention for a longer period of time. Activities like hiking and gardening were especially beneficial in improving one's ability to concentrate. Since walking in nature reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure, and helps boost mood, it can be especially effective in helping those suffering from an attention deficit disorder.

Improve Social Interactions

If you're an introvert or just lack enough social connections, this may have something to do with your environment. Those who work in buildings near open spaces or in buildings with outdoor courtyards often know more about others in the building and socialize more freely. Spending time outdoors often forces people to spend time with others, offering more opportunities for socialization. This is important, because socializing helps protect the mind from cognitive decline.

Getting back to nature, even for a short time, can have positive effects on your state of mind. If nothing else, it will give you a chance to unwind and relax. Taking just 30 minutes to walk on the beach or hike through the woods can give you the opportunity to reconnect with yourself and gain the peace you need to think more clearly.

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