I come alive in the fall. Maybe it’s because it’s my birthday season. Maybe it’s the quick transitions that make everything feel urgent and fleeting. When the weather cools off and before the temperatures drop too low, I feel an urge to get outside as much as I can. I find that this time outdoors resets me, allows me to quiet my mind, and makes me feel whole and connected.
I’m not alone in experiencing the benefits of connecting with nature. There is compelling evidence that supports the idea that spending time in green spaces is good for our mental health.
And it’s worth noting that green space can be anything from a rural secluded mountain hike to an urban park. As Savvy Psychologist podcast host Ellen Hendriksen points out in her podcast on the topic, connection to nature doesn’t have to happen in dramatic immersive experiences, you can get it in doses, e.g., walking instead of driving somewhere, making sure your window views include some natural scenery when possible, gardening or tending to house plants, etc.
why getting outside helps with anxiety/depression
Offers a break from distractions. Being in natural settings can help addresses attention fatigue (which increases impulsivity and difficulty concentrating). It gives us a chance to be mindful and free from technological and social stimuli.
Calms the nervous system and activates our appreciation for patterns and beauty.
Reminds us we’re human. We are hard-wired to exist in natural settings. In the scope of human history, we have lived deeply integrated with the natural world. We cannot remove ourselves from natural systems, but we can feel disconnected from them in our modern convenient world.
Can provide opportunities to foster social connection and a sense of purpose, as in the case of volunteering with a community garden or joining a hiking group.
Connects us with something bigger than ourselves. When we’re caught in the day-to-day drama of our lives and our stories, getting out in nature doesn’t necessarily take away our pain or suffering, but it can shift our perspective and remind us that we are part of something much bigger.
walk and talk therapy
For all of these reasons I love doing walk and talk therapy sessions. The movement element aside, conducting a therapy session in nature is refreshing, liberating, and often grounding in a way that is simply not accessible from an office space.
Simply getting outside is not a cure-all or a replacement for other evidenced-based treatments for anxiety disorders, but it can be a powerful supplement.
POdcasts/ARTICLES on the topic
Hidden Brain: https://www.npr.org/2018/09/10/646413667/our-better-nature-how-the-great-outdoors-can-improve-your-life
Savvy Psychologist: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-getting-away-in-nature-is-good-for-your-mental-health/