- Shiv Pathak
Impact of Nature on Mental Fitness
How to get your overwhelmed brain to wind down!
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and mentally fatigued in these hectic, urban lives that we lead. But what’s the best way to take a break and properly unwind so that you can feel rejuvenated? We are often told just to “take a walk outside” to calm down but is there anything in this recommendation or is it just another old wife’s tale?
Well, you may be surprised to find out that there’s actually a lot of science behind this tip. According to a psychologist at Trent University in Canada, “there is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human wellbeing”.
There are a few different theories as to why nature has such an impact on our minds and our bodies. Firstly, there’s the biophilia hypothesis which builds on the concept that since we evolved in a natural setting, we are inclined to thrive and enjoy the beauty of nature. This seems to intuitively make sense; fish are happier in water, we are happier in nature, particularly nature that caters to our most basic needs.
A second theory is that the impact of nature on our bodies, causes us to feel better, and so we enjoy it more. This idea posits that being in nature causes our blood pressure to reduce and improves our bodies response to stress.
The third option is that nature enhances our ability to concentrate and focus by refreshing our cognitive resources.
Realistically it is likely a combination of all three of these theories, as well as some other theories that haven’t been as well researched yet.
So what are the impacts of spending time in nature?
Increased Joy & happiness
Reduces mental fatigue
Stronger immune system response
Lowers blood pressure
Increased sense of community
Reduced violence and crime levels
Reduced occurrence of diabetes
There aren’t many things on this list that I wouldn’t want, how about you? The flip side of this is that the opposite effect is seen when we spend time in urban environments like cities. Researchers in Exeter, UK found that city dwellers living near green spaces report less mental distress even when accounting for income.
Despite all this scientific research and evidence, we still don’t spend as much time in nature as we should.
David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, has conducted research into the brain and nature. He has shown that it takes 3 days for the brain to fully rest and recuperate. It takes this time for the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that acts as the command center, to dial down from being in charge. His research shows that this effect only happens when you disengage from all work, devices and fully take in the natural world around you.
So if you’re feeling overstretched and that you need to wind down, why not book yourself an immersive trip into nature, disconnect from devices and the rest of the world and enjoy the world around you. It’s a great way to actively relax and give your brain a chance to reset so you can gain from all the benefits listed above!