If you’re suffering from the moody blues, anxiety or angry stress, the key to your mental health may be right outside your door. According to Brant Secunda and world champion Ironman Mark Allen, authors of Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You, connecting with nature not only brings beauty into your life, it can significantly boost your mood. Here’s what they had to say about the power of nature in improving your mental health.
Research suggests nature is an effective treatment for depression
New research from the Netherlands shows that people who live near a park or wooded area experience less depression and anxiety, and a study from the UK found that a walk in the country reduces depression in 71 percent of participants. Scientists have also known that sunlight can ease depression — especially SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, in winter. Secunda and Allen say that there are many reasons nature is so effective in lifting people’s spirits.
Nature connects and calms
The authors explain that people who live close to nature suffer from less depression because:
- They are connected to life, to the beauty of all of life and the majesty of creation.
- Being a part of a sunset or sunrise makes our soul happy, therefore also affects our body.
- Taking the time to simply experience nature can calm our nervous system.
- By being close to nature we feel a part of life, we feel connected to the birds, the flowers, the trees, and the earth.
- This process of being connected helps take away depression and other negative emotions, bringing us more happiness that will carry us every day of our life.
Nature encourages exercise
People who live close to nature also have a much higher chance of being active outside, moving around and exercising. Think about it — would you rather be running on a tree-lined trail with birds singing overhead or pound pavement next to cars or run on a treadmill going nowhere? Secunda and Allen add, “We all know how moving our bodies — exercising — is one of the most potent tools for combating depression.”
6 Ways nature can boost your mood
Going outside is the first step in connecting with nature, but your intent will significantly enhance nature’s positive effect on your mental health. Here are a few techniques from Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to Healthier, Happier You.
“Breathe in” the sound of running water
Go to a river or stream and breath in the sacred sound of running water. This simple act helps to make your spirit beautiful. Just think of your plants at home — when they get watered they look beautiful.
“Breathe in” the ocean sound
If you live on the coast, a good technique for washing away loneliness, depression or anger is to go to the ocean and breathe in the beautiful sound. Then as you breathe out, visualize your exhale letting your problems go.
Connect to “Father Sun”
Sit on the earth and feel the sky above you and imagine the light of the sun coming in through the top of your head. This helps take away anger and loneliness by helping you feel connected to something grand. It helps you feel a part of life all around you.
Connect with loved ones — in nature
A deceptively simple tool is to just go out with friends and family to a beautiful place in nature and talk, laugh or even discuss problems.
Be a part of nature
Go for a walk, run or hike in a natural setting. While you are out in nature, look around at the world going on around you. Forge a connection to the trees and plants and animals around you as you move through this setting whose elements are almost eternal. This can take your focus off your own challenges and help you see that there is a whole world that is enduring and wondrous. It helps us see that, ultimately, even with life’s challenges we are part of this amazing circle of life.
Draw energy from the earth
One way to draw energy from the earth when you feel depleted is to walk outdoors with intent, and with each step you take, try to visualize Mother Earth’s power rising into your body. The power of Mother Earth is love. Imagine love coming into your body, making your body strong. Love is a tangible power and emotion that many indigenous cultures consciously work with, and it can help all of us living in the modern world.
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