The benefits of nature are well documented, whether it is the physical benefits of engaging with natural environments, such as reduced stress, lower blood pressure or lower heart rate, or the benefits of improved mental health. During COVID-19, one of the only things you may be allowed to do is to embark on a journey to the local park or a nature reserve.
What are natural environments?
Any living and nonliving systems which are not man made, such as:
- Landscapes (e.g. forests)
- Natural phenomena
In the 21st century, we are constantly bombarded with the urban lifestyle with at least 55% of individuals living in cities (UN, 2018). This figure is projected to continue to rise. We may forget to enjoy the little things in life and it is said that “the best things in life come free”. Nature is a perfect example of a gift we receive every single day, but one which we may not appreciate.
When surrounded by nature, we can increase our engagement with ourselves and the natural world. Simply by sitting in a natural environment you can mindfully witness all that is around you – the birds, the water, leaves moving or bees buzzing around. It has been found that an engagement with nature seems to mediate the relationship between nature and happiness. In other words, you need to mindfully engage with the environment to feel a sense of connectedness, happiness, and satisfaction. If you are not able to go into a natural environment at this time, you can get similar benefits by looking at images or videos of nature online. There are plenty of videos on YouTube to choose from, ranging from bird sounds to whale noises in the deep ocean!
Psychologists have recently become interested in the relationship between engagement, nature, and happiness. This is an emerging area in environmental psychology. The biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans feel an innate need to connect with the natural world and also other life forms. As well as nature increasing positive feelings, it has also been found to decrease those that are negative. For example, it can help to decrease feelings of anxiety or depression.
Nature can also provide restoration. Being away from our stressors can help restoration to occur, and being in nature provides an environment that feels safe (unless you get chased by a lion!).
So, why not plan your next walk or a trip to your favourite natural spot?
You can increase the engagement you have with yourself and your environment, and, in turn, increase your happiness and clear your mind from any stressors you have been experiencing.