Nature makes us calm
It’s no secret that nature makes us feel good. Taking a stroll in the local park means that we will be less stressed and much more relaxed to cope with life’s challenges. But just how much impact does it really have on our wellbeing? Can nature actually make us happy? It’s certainly true that being surrounded by green spaces will lift our mood, but is there any scientific evidence behind this theory?
In 2011, (The Guardian Newspaper) reported that city dwellers were 21% more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders than those living in the countryside. Professor Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, from the University of Heidelberg, discovered that amygdala (the part of the brain that senses danger) was much more active in participants living in cities. There’s no denying that urban living can be stressful. We’re always chasing our tails as we go from one activity to another without even pausing for air.
Society has conditioned us into thinking that if we’re not actively doing something, then we must be lazy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s essential for our health to pause and allow our brains time to recover. Too much pressure and mental overload for long periods of time will have an effect on our health. The body goes into fight or flight mode just to keep going. We become exhausted, our immune systems go into overdrive and, all too often, we become ill with conditions like depression and anxiety. Taking a short break or a holiday close to nature will allow our brains to have some downtime as well.
Can nature improve our mental health?
Taking a brisk walk or a run through the woods will certainly clear the mind and release any pent-up tension. In fact, research has shown that nature really does go beyond just making us feel good; it can also be a good healer.
In 2016, (Natural England) commissioned a study from the University of Essex and the mental health charity Mind. It revealed that mental health is on the increase with an estimated one in four of us experiencing some kind of mental health condition in any one year. The report documented how green spaces reduced depression, anxiety disorder and stress, as well as revealing a marked improvement in dementia related symptoms. Not only do people benefit from the healing power of nature, they also begin to increase their emotional resilience and self-esteem, as well as improving their social life – something that is so often missing in the lives of those suffering from depression or anxiety.
The study by (Natural England),which reviewed the benefits of ‘green care’ for mental ill health, focused on three main nature-based interventions. These included care farming, environmental conservation and therapeutic horticulture.
(Ecotherapy) has become a very effective method in treating depression and anxiety disorders. By connecting us to the natural world around us, it helps us to reconnect with our ‘inner’ nature. (Mind) has funded more than 130 ecotherapy projects across the UK with £7.5m from the National Lottery fund. More than 12,000 people have made use of these projects, which includes gardening, growing food and conservation work. Ecotherapy also helps the practice of mindfulness. This type of therapy involves becoming more aware of ourselves in the present moment. By bringing our attention to the natural world, it helps shift our focus away from negative thoughts.
(Green Gyms )have also been working with Mindon a new project called Pro-Active Minds, which promotes resillience and wellbeing for those at risk of developing mental health conditions. Funded by the Department of Health, Pro-Active Minds utilises a volunteer-led, peer support model, within an ecotherapy setting.
How walking can work wonders for our mental health
Being physically active in beautiful surroundings will do wonders for our mood. Even a simple walk through the woods with our dogs after a demanding day can reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue. But why is walking so good for us? There are the obvious physical benefits of walking, like reducing the risk of heart disease, blood pressure and cancer, but is there any evidence of its benefits for mental health?
(Walking for Health), Britain’s largest network of walking for health schemes, summarises the findings of a new review produced by the Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support. It was found that regular walking improves self-perception and self-esteem, mood and sleep quality. It states that physically active people have up to 30 per cent reduced risk of becoming depressed and staying active helps the recovery of those who are already suffering from depression. Walking is free and can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age. It’s gentle on the joints and doesn’t necessarily need any special clothing. Add in some beautiful countryside and we’re well on our way to a healthier mind.
A nature holiday – the perfect way to clear the mind
Taking a break away from it all is what we all need from time to time. Combining a holiday with the therapeutic benefits of nature is the perfect way to give our minds a break too. Why not try something different and explore some of Germany’s natural gems? The country has some of the most diverse landscape in Europe, ranging from the magnificent North and Baltic Seas to the mountains in the south, as well as the National Parks and biospheres.
If you’d like to see more of our blogs and if you’d like to get some more information and tips about this topic as well as holidays in Germany, sign up here for Nadja’s Germany newsletter and don’t forget to follow Nadja on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter. Why not join my ‘I love Germany‘ closed Facebook group where the community exchanges tips and chats about Germany as a holiday destination?