It took me a long time to understand what helped me when I feel depressed, sometimes nothing helps and I just have to wait for the darkness to pass but sometimes making myself do certain things really lifts my mood. One of those things is being outside, whether that’s going for a walk with my dogs or sitting in the garden looking at the trees, flowers & wildlife it definitely reduces my feelings of anxiety and depression. I thought this could just be because I feel more able to breathe and less claustrophobic but actually there is some real science behind why nature makes you happy.
There’s a beautiful link between the human body and the earth. Practises that are good for the earth are actually amazing for your body too – eating pesticide free food, buying organic produce, eating more greens than meat, wearing less makeup, walking instead of driving, drinking from a glass instead of a plastic bottle/cup, etc. Look after our planet and you look after your body also, talk about a double whammy!
The relationship between our mind and nature is just as strong. Nature is necessary to maintain our happiness levels and many studies show nature can lift your mood, decrease feelings of stress and increase feelings of joy. Rumination is the negative thought process in the brain, it’s responsible for all this times you overthink a situation, when you can’t see the positives, when you get stressed and it can contribute towards depression over time. Spending more time with nature reduces the effects of rumination and therefore makes you feel calmer, more positive and happier.
Being outside also means you’re soaking up some mood-enhancing vitamin D! Vitamin D, also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, plays a major role in helping to keep your bones and teeth healthy but did you know that low levels of vitamin D can cause depressive symptoms and a low mood? Vitamin D receptors have been found in parts of the brain, it’s not quite clear how the vitamin effects the brain but one theory is that it affects how the chemicals in your brain work and when vitamin D increases the amount of good chemicals in your brain that make you feel happy increase. It’s very common to have depression if you have vitamin D deficiency…so get outside and soak up those rays!
By 2050 it’s estimated 70% of the worlds population will live in cities (currently over 50% of people do), and when nature is this important to maintain human happiness it’s no wonder mental health issues are on the rise. If you live in a town or city try and make time for nature, there’s bound to be a park, some woodland or fields close to you and spending 90 minutes there is proven to massively reduce rumination in the brain (i.e. you’ll feel happier!).
Spending time with nature will also increase your energy levels and boost overall-wellbeing so what are you waiting for?! Get outside!
Nature is wonderful, we need to be embracing it more. Care for it as it cares for you, practice gratitude through action and both your body & the earth will reward you.
Nourishing Amelia is an award winning blog set up by me, Amelia Littlejohn, as a way to help others lead a happy, healthy life.