Go Green — A Regular Dose of Nature Can Improve Your Mental Health

There’s a reason why you feel so zen when immersed in nature. There’s something about the outdoors that really grounds you — the combination of the fresh air, calming sounds and attractive views. The stillness and tranquillity of nature has been a literal breath of fresh air during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought about isolation and prolonged periods spent indoors.

As a result, the collective mental health of the world has taken a battering, with the full extent of the pandemic’s impact not yet known. Finding moments of relief is important at times like this and according to a new study, spending time in nature can actually mitigate some of the negative effects of the pandemic on your mental health.

A recent online survey conducted by researchers at The University of Tokyo in Japan investigated the link between mental health outcomes, including depression, life satisfaction, subjective happiness, self-esteem and loneliness, against nature experiences including the frequency of green space use and green views through windows at home.

3,000 adults living in Tokyo completed the survey, and according to Science Daily, researchers found that more frequent use of green spaces and the existence of green window views from the home were associated with increased levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction and subjective happiness. Researchers also noted that spending more time in nature also resulted in decreased levels of depression and loneliness among participants.

“Our results suggest that nearby nature can serve as a buffer in decreasing the adverse impacts of a very stressful event on humans,” said lead author Masashi Soga, PhD, of The University of Tokyo. “Protecting natural environments in urban areas is important not only for the conservation of biodiversity, but also for the protection of human health.”

This study validates previous research which found, as Forbes put it, “less screen time and more green time” to be the best option for mental health outcomes. A study from 2019 found that spending at least 120 minutes per week outdoors in parks, woodlands, mountains and beaches helps to promote healthy physical and mental health while also enlarging your life perspective, which can often be limited by your phone.

While dragging yourself off the couch, or away from your laptop or phone might seem difficult, the mental health benefits of spending regular time in the outdoors speak for themselves. And, at a time when much is still unknown, finding happiness where you can is extremely important.

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