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In his classic book “Walden,” author Henry David Thoreau encourages readers to, “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” In this modern age, however, it’s easy to forget to enjoy these simple pleasures that can be found in abundance in nature.
Technology, work, and overwhelm are contributing today to a spike in poor mental health. The pressures of society, isolation, and fears caused by the pandemic, and worries about the future mean depression, anxiety, and stress are on the rise.
Perhaps it’s time to take Thoreau’s advice to heart. Spending time in nature can bring peace, calm, and clarity. And some doctors are requiring their patients to do exactly that.
The Healing Power of Nature
Until the 19th century, prescribing time at the beach was common for treating people with serious illnesses. However, as modern medicine gave rise to pharmaceutical solutions, many abandoned the idea of spending time outside when sick. Instead, convalescing in your home became the norm.
Once again, however, doctors are prescribing what some call the “nature pill” as part of a treatment plan. People suffering from conditions ranging from anxiety to obesity can benefit from these treatments. Doctors have long told patients to exercise or get outdoors. Officially prescribing the nature pill makes people more likely to follow that advice.
There is no better time than the present to reap the rewards of this treatment for yourself.
How Nature Benefits Your Well Being and Your Brain
Many of us spend too much time on our phones and in front of our computers. Science tells us that excessive screen time has been linked to poor psychological wellness in children. Adults have the same struggle. No wonder stress and anxiety are on the rise!
But there is good news. Returning to nature can be just the ticket for your mental health. Several studies show these benefits from spending time outdoors:
- Cognitive improvements include better memory function, enhanced problem-solving abilities, sharper concentration, and more creative abilities. Enough time outdoors may even reduce your risk of developing ADHD.
- People with depression had better overall mood and motivation and were more motivated to recover.
- Being outside may lower your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, reducing anxiety.
When you feel sluggish, demotivated, depressed, and stressed out, take time for a nature break.
Making Time Outside a Priority
How can we make sure that we take time out from our busy day to get outdoors?
- Schedule daily or weekly outdoor time into your calendar.
- On busy days, sit outside for a few minutes without your phone. It can be as simple as coffee on your deck or lunch in a park near your job.
- Plan for outdoor getaways on your days off. Plan visits to beaches, mountains, nature trails.
- You can bring your phone. Be sure to have times when you turn it off or put it on mute so you can fully immerse yourself in nature.
Another great idea is to go outside with others. A family hike is a fun way to get your kids off the tech and encourage exercise. A trip to the beach with friends provides sun and fun with the soothing sounds of the surf.
Consider getting a pet. Dogs are great companions that can boost our mental health. Walking your dog every day ensures you both get much-needed exercise and outdoor time with a good friend. And you can bring them on the road for dog-friendly nature adventures.
How to Appreciate the Great Outdoors
Once we are outside, though, we may be reluctant to give ourselves over to appreciating our surroundings. We must connect intentionally with the natural world to gain cognitive benefits.
And that means nature is best appreciated if you put your phone away. If you are struggling with your mental health, bring a notebook and pen rather than your phone. Writing is a powerful healing tool that allows you the time and space to write through your struggles, especially when you are alone with nature. With enough outings, you might even find yourself a changed person!
We recommend that you listen to the sounds of nature. But long hikes can get a little boring. Instead, bring music along. Choose songs that bring you joy and harmony.
If you’re combating lethargy, music is one of the best ways to become more vibrant and energetic. For example, Counting Crows lead singer, Adam Duritz, used writing and music to overcome his mental health issues. He battles with Dissociative Disorder, which leaves him feeling disconnected from the world. The singer has openly shared his battles.
For a time, he only felt vibrant and connected to others when onstage. As Author Brenda Knowles writes, “Only he could save himself.” He dug deep through soul-searching, writing, and more to overcome these challenges by sharing his experiences.
Writing, nature, and music can help you as well. Getting outside – and away from your screens – can bring you better mental health no matter your struggles. These simple tools for wellness are neglected far too often in modern society. Make them a part of your life for better total health!
This is a guest post from Luke Smith. Luke is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but relationship topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.