Waterfall in the mountainsThe environment we live and work in has a huge influence on our mental and physical health. A warm, sunny day at the beach can uplift us after a long, gray winter season. Taking a trip to the mountains can rejuvenate us after bearing with never-ending workdays in the city.

Spending time in nature is proven to be beneficial for our mental health, and can assist in the treatment of mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Environmental psychology, or the study of an environment’s impact on human well-being, finds that our connection to nature is essential to maintaining and improving our mental health.

A study conducted at the University of California Berkeley shows that spending time in nature can be especially transformative for individuals dealing with trauma. But how?

Nature can help heal us by helping to balance our emotions and cleanse our bodies.

Why Does Nature Help Heal Us?

Our connection with nature is deeply rooted in human evolution. For thousands of years, humans lived in the wilderness amongst nature. Spending so much time indoors and in front of screens is a relatively new state of being for humankind. It takes us away from the nature we spent so long in.

This evolutionary explanation gives reason as to why spending time in nature can be so profoundly healing.

The aforementioned study at the University of California Berkeley found that the feeling of awe we experience when surrounded by nature is the most beneficial sensation we can feel to alleviate the symptoms of PTSD. This is why more and more mental health and rehabilitation facilities are implementing eco-therapy—a kind of therapy that emphasizes nurturing our relationship with nature.

How Does Nature Help Heal Us?

A group of men playing basketball outsideBeing in nature promotes physical activity, like walking, hiking, swimming, or biking. Improving our physical health will lead to improved mental health, too. But it is not just the exercise that boosts our mood. Simply sitting and experiencing nature as it is has its own healing properties, such as:

  • Spending time outdoors reduces the stress hormone cortisol, in turn decreasing the body’s stress levels.
  • Nature walks and avoiding electronic screens improve memory functioning and focus.
  • Being in the sunlight provides us with vitamin D, which can boost our immune system.
  • Getting fresh air from outdoors releases toxins from the body.
  • A close connection with nature balances emotions and sharpens our senses.
  • Connecting with nature can strengthen spiritual health and a foster positive outlook on life.

The physical benefits of exercising outside also include a boost in energy, better sleep, improved cardiac functioning, weight loss, strengthened bones and muscles, and reduced risk of chronic diseases.

Methods of Healing in Nature

Not everyone can up and go whitewater rafting or hike the Grand Canyon any day of the week. Some people live in heavily condensed, urban areas or rural towns far from exciting attractions.

Sunset over mountains (my photo)While it can be thrilling to visit national monuments and landscapes—especially to feel a great sense of awe—it is not realistic for many people. However, there are plenty of outdoor activities that we can do in our own backyards that elicit a sense of awe or peacefulness.

  • Go for a walk or jog around the neighborhood.
  • Birdwatch.
  • Garden or do other yard work.
  • Find the nearest body of water that allows fishing or swimming.
  • Ride a bike.
  • Find the nearest city park to go hiking in or take a picnic.
  • Walk around nature and take photos.
  • Star gaze.
  • Play sports at a local park.

Taking a few minutes away from our routine of office work and screen time to step outside for a moment can do wonders for our mental health. Even simply sitting in our own backyard to enjoy a cup of coffee can help us connect with nature.

If you’re ready for support in healing from trauma, reach out today!

For more information about my services in Delray Beach, FL and Sandy Springs, GA, click here Trauma Therapy.