Improved Mental Health through Exposure to Nature

By Jim Squire MDiv RP |

Research has shown exposure to nature or proximity to green spaces leads to reduced depression, anxiety, improves emotional regulation, benefits working memory, leads to increased energy and improves physical health (CMHA, 2013). A study by the National Academy of Science found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area showed decreased neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex. This is an area of the brain that is active during rumination, in other words repetitive thoughts focused on negative emotions were reduced for those spending time in nature.

Other studies have shown reduced levels of cortisol which is indicative of reduced stress levels, a Swedish study showed that being in nature was most helpful for those with higher levels of stress.With mental health issues on the rise and more and more people living in urban areas the question has to be asked is reduced exposure to nature contributing these mental health issues? That is difficult to answer since the way we live as a society is changing so rapidly however there seems to be overwhelming evidence that exposure to nature leads to increased well-being, and improves physical and mental health.