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7 Sep 2018

What are the mental health benefits of being in nature?

It’s estimated that 45% of Australians will struggle with their mental health in their life time. R U OK? Day on the 13 September 2018 is a national day of action, aimed at preventing suicide and helping to improve the mental health of Australians. One of the most beneficial changes you can make today to improve your overall wellness and happiness, is to spend more time outside in green spaces like Centennial Parklands.

But how does being outside actually influence our mood and mental health? Like most urban-dwellers, Sydneysiders are living increasingly fast-paced, pressurised and stressful daily lives. In fact, studies show that the prevalence of mental health issues is 30% higher in cities than it is in rural areas. Here are 5 ways that being outside can improve your mental health.

Being in nature reduces stress

Spending time in nature actually has a physiological effect on the body, reducing blood pressure and the hormone cortisol, which is linked with stress. Being in beautiful outdoor surroundings acts as refreshment for the brain, which can also improve focus, creativity, and problem-solving abilities.

Natural light will improve your sleep

Light helps to regulate your natural biological clock. Before the days of artificial lighting and screens, people would naturally wake up with the sunrise and sleep when it became dark. Modern living has shifted this pattern a little but natural light still has the same effect on sleep cycles. A study of workers at different latitudes, with different amounts of sunlight each day, found that less natural light resulted in poorer sleep.

This is important because insufficient or poor-quality sleep can have a negative effect on your mental health. The Australian National Sleep Foundation promotes sleep as a way to battle depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.

Being outside increases social interactions

In 1950, only 30% of humanity were urban dwellers, but by 2050, 66% of the human population is projected to live in cities. Despite being much closes together, we are spending more time apart and isolated. However, people living in building with more grass and trees nearby interact and socialise with their neighbours and have a stronger sense of community.

Research by the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney into the benefits of community gardens is a great example of this happening right here in the heart of Sydney. Watch the video below to hear more about the benefits of community garden spaces on community cohesion.

It encourages physical activity

Naturally, being outside will mean you are more likely to move your body, rather than sitting inside on a sofa or at a desk. Walking is the most popular activity when outside but being in nature has a whole host of options, such as fishing, biking, climbing, sailing, amongst others.

Even a small amount of exercise is shown to have a positive impact on the mind by improving your mood, concentration and reducing stress.

It gives you a break from work

One of the more obvious benefits of spending time in nature is that it gets you away from the screens that are becoming increasingly prevalent at home, at work and everything in between. By taking a break once in a while, you’re more likely to do better at work, and getting that praise from your boss is bound to make you feel much better! Wind down from work and get your dose of vitamin (N)ature!

What do you do to support your mental health?

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