Nature: The Best Treatment
Over the past two years, stress and anxiety have increased to nearly pandemic levels themselves. The many unknowns and severe disruptions to all our lives have caused many of us to experience mental health issues for the first time, and severely exacerbated the mental and behavioral health issues that others may have struggled with previously. However, one treatment that can help with this stress and anxiety is right at our doorsteps: nature.
There have been numerous studies that show that exposure to nature causes a biological reaction that helps our body to relax and rest. Hospital patients who have nature scenes on the walls of their rooms or that have windows with views of trees, recovered faster than those with abstract art. The nature scenes helped them to relax and reduced their anxiety and pain. Viewing images of nature scenes causes higher parasympathetic nervous system activity. This is the branch of the nervous system that allows the body to “rest and digest” and balances against the sympathetic “fight or flight” branch. The more awe-inspiring the scene, the higher the parasympathetic nervous system activity.
Thomas Buckley, Executive Director at Aspire Counseling Services in San Luis Obispo, knows that nature can help his patients. That is why Tom takes many of his patients on nature hikes. Being surrounded by nature helps people to improve their mental health, which allows them to heal faster. Spending time in nature does not cure mental health issues, expert help from professionals like Tom and the counselors at Aspire Counseling Services is needed. However, becoming one with nature will improve your symptoms of anxiety and stress, and leave you feeling more relaxed and mentally strong enough to face your symptoms and improve your wellness.
As humans, we have always been one with nature. If we don’t take the time to nourish that bond, research shows that it impacts our stress, anxiety, and mental health. The American Heart Association notes a large variety of ways that studies have shown where time in nature positively improves our mental and physical health.
Study Results from Time Spent in Nature
- Spending time in nature relieves stress and anxiety, improves your mood, and boosts your feelings of happiness and well-being.
- A 90-minute nature walk lowers activity in the part of the brain linked to negative thoughts.
- Spending just four days in nature has shown to improve problem solving skills by 50%.
- Short-term memory and mental ability to process 3D images were improved after just a short time in nature.
- Social behaviors are also improved as exposure to nature increases feelings of generosity and empathy.
- A trail walk reduces anxiety levels more than an indoor gym workout.
The awe-inspiring impact of nature helps us to realize we are but one small part of a vast, incredible universe. That knowledge helps to ground us and make us realize we are not alone and that a greater connection with life is important. Aspire Counseling Services uses that connection with the greater universe as one small piece of their treatment programs. If you are experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or any mental or behavioral health issues, contact Aspire today for help.
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