The Mental Health Benefits of Spending a Day in the Woods

Mental Health and the Environment
Credit: Roddy Scheer

The great William Shakespeare once said: “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” It has been determined that as many as one in five American adults experience some form of mental ailment in any given year according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. While there is a myriad of conventional therapies available on the market that effectually treat most mental health afflictions, it has been found that spending as little as one day in nature can be of great benefit as well. Apart from filling your lungs with fresh air and supplying you with a healthy Vitamin D boost courtesy of the sun, frolicking in the woods can benefit your mental well-being in numerous ways while also indirectly helping the environment itself by making you more knowledgeable about its operations.

Being in nature decreases stress and anxiety

Whether you simply go for a relaxing stroll or spend the weekend in the woods, you are bound to feel more relaxed almost instantly.  This is due to the immense physiological effect nature has on the body, lowering both the blood pressure and cortisol levels in the body – both of which are associated with stress. Although the exact science behind this phenomenon remains elusive, one theory suggests that we are genetically programmed to have a positive response to nature as it represents the environment in which our ancestors flourished. While spending time in nature you will also undoubtedly interact with a wide range of living things including plants, mammals, insects, and birds, giving you a far better understanding of all the various workings of the planet.

Our concentration improves while being outside

The benefits nature has on especially children with ADHD has long been touted by researchers whose findings were published in the American Journal of Public Health. It was found that children who spent a couple of hours outside every day presented significantly reduced symptoms of ADHD as well as drastically improved concentration. Spending a day in the woods will not only help you focus better, but also improve your memory, better your concentration and boost your productivity which, in turn, will render you more confident than ever before. You will also become more frugal and environmentally responsible once realizing that there is almost zero waste in nature. Unlike the waste originating from humans that can endanger the environment, the natural systems contained within the ecology have become exceptionally good at recycling just about all animal and plant matter.

Mother Nature suppresses obsessive, negative thinking

When you dwell too much all everything that is wrong or amiss in your life, chances are you will be heading for anxiety attacks or full-blown depression sooner or later. Spending a day in the beautiful natural surrounds of a forest can reduce the prevalence of these conditions substantially.  According to research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS), time spent in nature can significantly reduce negative thinking as well as activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain most commonly associated with mental illness. 

Although retreating to the woods for a day should by no means replace professional medical intervention as far as mental illness is concerned, it can be very beneficial as a complementary therapy. Spending time in nature is also not only beneficial to those living with mental health issues but everyone who could do with a bit of a boost as far as their physical and mental well-being is concerned.