The Effectiveness of Walking in Nature For Anxiety and Depression – Hypnotherapy in Ely and Newmarket
Ah the great British weather! Last week the sun was out and shining bright and, in the warmth, I started to think about whether it was time to dig out my shorts. Then this week it’s been cold and wet and windy and I had to search back in the cupboard for my winter coat before heading out anywhere.
Now, whatever the weather, it’s always great to get outside, whether that is for exercise or just to take a mind clearing walk. Few things top those moments when you are out walking in nature. Recently we’ve been for a family walk through the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds and for an explore on our first trip to Audley End House. On top of that I always enjoy my walk through the quiet fields on my way to and from work (especially now that the clocks have changed and it’s lighter in the evening).
I love those moments when you feel connected to nature as you walk along. There are the trees and the brightly coloured flowers and the green grass. There are the insects buzzing around and often a squirrel or two scampering about. I could watch the sights and listen to the sounds of nature in some secluded spot (on a nice day at least!) for hours. One of the reasons I love my office in Ely so much is because I can look out over the fields and catch sight of the deer, or a bird of prey, and even recently a fox walking through the undergrowth.
I often suggest to clients with anxiety, worry and stress that they start taking a daily walk to get the mental health and well-being benefits of moving and exercise, and as a way of seeking to get some time off from unwanted thinking. And there are even better benefits if that walk is in nature, where you feel a sense of connection to nature, as the mental health research clearly supports.
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 10-20 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. Yep, even during a time of 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).
What’s more, we also have some more recent research that adds to the weight of evidence supporting the effectiveness of walking in nature as an intervention for anxiety and depression.
Using a Nature Walk for Anxiety and Depression
Grassini (2022) carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of a nature walk as an intervention for anxiety and depression.
The research found that using 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.
It seems unsurprising that the walking/exercise aspect improved the effectiveness of the time in nature. There is a 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?
As you’ll know from previous articles, my exercise is very important to me and is a key part of my own strategy to be mentally and physically healthy, whether that exercise is running outdoors in nature, or something more indoors like training at the gym:
In conclusion, the results firmly suggest that if you are currently struggling with anxiety or depression, then getting walking in nature may be very beneficial in helping you to tackle some of the symptoms. As I’ve mentioned already, walking in nature isn’t necessarily going to resolve all of your unwanted thoughts and feelings, yet combined with other strategies and effective therapeutic techniques, it can help you in moving forward towards feeling better in yourself (and it can help you to stay feeling better once you get there).
And if you want to get some of the psychological benefits of time in nature, and to strengthen the therapeutic benefits of your nature walks, then do go and check out my Natural Calmness hypnosis download to support your efforts in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
To your anxiety freedom,
Anxiety Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
Struggling with your anxiety and need some expert help to overcome your anxiety? Book your Complimentary Hypnotherapy Strategy Session with me now: Appointments
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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.