How Nature Helps With Anxiety, Stress and Depression – Hypnotherapy in Ely and Newmarket
I don’t know about you and your family, but we quite like to watch Richard Osman’s House of Games on TV together. I really like some of the rounds and the way they are put together, and it’s one of those shows that, no matter what your age, you can join in with and play along at home. Only no shouting out the answer please because that just leads to arguments!
The other day, after a particularly engaging play along at home episode, a show came on the TV which was all about groups of strangers getting together and hiking in areas around the country. In the show, five walkers compete against each other with their favourite walks to win a voucher or something at the end of the week. It’s like a strange hiking based reality competition show.
As the show aired, we were shown some absolutely fabulous areas of nature in Yorkshire, and we became particularly interested when they walked in and around Robin Hood’s Bay, a place we’ve visited on many occasions and which we always enjoy going to when we are in that part of the world. They showed some areas nearby that we’ve never explored, or even been aware of, on our previous visits.
Now the reason I mention this is not because I now work for the Yorkshire tourist board, but more because of some of the comments made by the walkers about their love of hiking and what got them into it, along with what they continue to get from their endeavours.
Several of the hikers mentioned how walking, and particularly walking in nature, had helped them with their mental health. From overcoming fears to anxiety and lowness, they had found a method and a passion that helped them. Part of this may have been having a sense of purpose and part of it may have been from being in an environment where it can be a bit easier to discuss mental health issues safely. Yet certainly a large aspect of the mental health boost they talked about came from getting out and spending time in nature.
Now, if you are an avid follower of my articles here on my website then this perhaps wasn’t really news to you. Research upon research has shown that spending time in nature and walking in nature can have immensely positive impacts upon anxiety, stress, depression and your mental health and well-being.
Using Nature To Reduce Your Stress and Boost Your Mental Health
I’ve written before about how time in nature can help you to reduce your stress and to boost your mental health and well-being.
Research has demonstrated that taking a ‘nature pill’, that is spending time in nature, can produce significant benefits in reducing stress. The greatest benefits seem to come from spending between twenty and thirty minutes in an outdoor place that has a sense of contact with nature (Hunter, Gillespie and Chen. 2019).
There’s a bit more on that here: Using Nature To Reduce Stress and Boost Mental Health
And in another research paper, it was found that as little as ten to twenty minutes of sitting or walking in nature could meaningfully help reduce stress, anger and anxiety, as well as helping boost comfort, calmness and positivity (Meredith et al, 2020).
There more on this mental health research here: Using Nature To Positively Impact Your Mental Health
As well as all this good stuff supporting the usefulness and impact of time in nature for your mental health and well-being, we also have research that shows that nature helped with mitigating some of the adverse mental health impacts of the pandemic. Even during a time of great stress, change and uncertainty, nature was one way to support your own mental health and to help reduce anxiety and stress.
The frequency of green space use and the existence of green window views from within the home were associated with increased levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction, and subjective happiness as well as decreased levels of depression, anxiety, and loneliness (Soga, Evans, Tsuchiya, and Fukano. 2020).
I covered that research in this previous article: Reduce Anxiety and Stress With Nature During The Pandemic
All of this research supports that if you want to reduce your stress and anxiety, and to boost your well-being and sense of positivity, then adding time in nature to your routine is a good option for your mental health. Now, of course, time in nature by itself isn’t necessarily going to ‘fix’ how you feel if you are struggling with anxiety, stress or depression, yet it can form part of your strategy for tackling these things (alongside effective therapeutic help. For more about hypnotherapy for anxiety and depression have a look at these articles: Cognitive Hypnotherapy For Depression – How Effective Is It? and The Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy as a Treatment For Anxiety).
Using a Nature Walk for Anxiety and Depression
Spending time in and around nature has, therefore, been firmly demonstrated to help with anxiety, stress and depression.
Further research has specifically looked at using a walk in nature as an intervention for anxiety and depression (Grassini, 2022) and found that nature walks can help improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. The results showed that walking in nature produced a better mental health impact than walking in an urban setting, suggesting that the aspect of being close to nature is important for mental health. It also showed that walking in nature was more beneficial than experiencing nature without walking, suggesting that movement is also important here in achieving the most benefit.
“The studies included in this analysis assessed the impact of nature walk on anxiety and depression. The systematic review and meta-analysis show that nature walk effectively improve mental health, positively impacting depression and anxiety…The current findings are critical in demonstrating the empirical value of nature-based walk interventions for improving mental health” (Grassini, 2022)
And so here we have even more support for the value of getting out and walking in nature for help with anxiety and depression.
You can read more in this article: The Effectiveness of Walking in Nature For Anxiety and Depression – Hypnotherapy in Ely and Newmarket
It seems unsurprising that the walking and exercise aspect improved the effectiveness of the time in nature. There is already a wealth of research and evidence supporting the benefit of exercise for anxiety relief and boosting mental health and well-being. You can find more about the benefits of exercise here: Anxiety and Exercise – Anxiety Hypnotherapy in Ely and Depression: Does aerobic exercise have anti-depressant effects?
However, whilst time moving in nature does have positive impacts upon your mental health, some additional research has considered whether the anxiety and stress relief experienced comes from exposure to the natural environment itself, or as a result of being away from a detrimental urban environment (as living in urban environments has been associated with an increased risk for issues such as anxiety and depression).
Sudimac, Sale and Kühn (2022), conducted an intervention study to investigate changes in stress related brain regions as an effect of a one hour walk in an urban (busy street) versus a natural environment (forest). Brain activation was measured in sixty three healthy participants, before and after the walk.
They found that amygdala activation decreases after the walk in nature, whereas it remains stable after the walk in an urban environment. As you may know, the amygdala is the region of the brain associated with threat and fear. And so, the results here suggest that going for a walk in nature can have positive effects by reducing activity in the stress related region of the brain and so may act as a preventative measure against mental strain and potentially disease.
“To conclude, our results demonstrate that exposure to nature for one hour decreases amygdala activity and can have salutogenic effects on brain regions related to stress. This suggests that going for a walk in nature may buffer detrimental effects of urban environment on stress-related brain regions, and in turn potentially act as a preventive measure against developing a mental disorder” (Sudimac, Sale and Kühn, 2022).
However, it’s worth noting that there is some evidence to suggest that the beneficial effects of nature on stress related brain regions are more pronounced in women then men and so women may profit more from the beneficial effects of nature (Sudimac and Kühn, 2022).
That said, the overall wealth of the evidence I’ve covered here suggests that, regardless of your gender, you are likely to benefit from time in nature and especially from time walking in nature. You get the opportunity to get away for a while from the demands and challenges of your life, you get time focusing on the things around you rather than the things inside your own head, and you can boost positive emotions from being out and being active.
And so, just like those BBC hikers, you too can find that there are huge positives for your mental health from getting out walking. And whether you are in the Fens like me or up on the Yorkshire coast like the people I watched on TV, there’s certainly something special about getting out walking and exploring. We are already talking about a trip up to Robin Hood’s Bay to check out some the landscape we saw in the show and I’m looking forward to watching future episodes set in other areas for some additional inspiration of places to visit and to walk around. And so if you want to take a proactive step to reduce anxiety, stress and depression and support your mental health, then do make the time to get out for a walk in nature several times a week. Your brain and your body will likely thank you.
To your health and happiness,
Anxiety Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
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Grassini, S., 2022. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Nature Walk as an Intervention for Anxiety and Depression. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 11(6), p.1731.
Hunter MR, Gillespie BW and Chen SY-P (2019). Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Front. Psychol. 10:722. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00722
Meredith, G.R., Rakow, D.A., Eldermire, E.R., Madsen, C.G., Shelley, S.P. and Sachs, N.A., 2020. Minimum Time Dose in Nature to Positively Impact the Mental Health of College-Aged Students, and How to Measure It: A Scoping Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, p.2942.
Soga, M., M. J. Evans, K. Tsuchiya, and Y. Fukano. 2020. A room with a green view: the importance of nearby nature for mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ecological Applications 00(00): e02248. 10.1002/eap.2248.
Sudimac, S. and Kühn, S., 2022. A one-hour walk in nature reduces amygdala activity in women, but not in men. Frontiers in Psychology, 13.
Sudimac, S., Sale, V. and Kühn, S., 2022. How nature nurtures: Amygdala activity decreases as the result of a one-hour walk in nature.