Nature is always there and always accessible, whether that’s a city park or the rolling hills of the countryside. It’s easy to underestimate the impact that being in nature has on our mental health but we are beginning to realise just how important this is. Particularly during the lockdowns of the past year, outside spaces have become even more important to us - 45% of people reported that green spaces had become vital for our mental health. Which is why now seems like the ideal time to delve into the theme of nature and how much this matters to how we feel.
Humans + nature
The human connection to nature is one that has a historic basis. As a species we used to live much more in nature and it’s only really in the past five generations that we have detached ourselves from it in the way that we live and work. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that nature can be so healing and inspiring for humans - even a tiny bit of contact with nature can help to reduce feelings of isolation and anxiety. There is plenty of evidence to support this and much of that stretches back decades. For example, one study in the 1960s found that patients who were in a hospital with a view of nature tended to recover more quickly. So, it’s incredibly problematic for all generations today who don’t have much of a connection with the natural world. And, perhaps, especially worrying for younger generations - 13% of teenagers for example have no access to a garden.
How we connect to nature matters
It’s not just being in nature that makes a difference but also the way we open ourselves up to it and interact with the natural world when we’re in it. Finding new ways to connect to nature can have a big impact on positive mental health and it’s essential that we stop viewing access to nature as a luxury and start seeing it as vital - as vital as having clean water to drink and a roof over our heads. Part of this is ensuring that we have a legal infrastructure in place to protect nature (the new Environment Bill goes through parliament this year and will have a big role to play in this). Also important are the steps we take to make sure we get the connection that we need. That could be:
- Setting time aside to go out into nature and truly experience it.
- Sharing photos, videos or other content that you’ve made in nature to help others connect with it too.
- Having conversations around nature, how being in it has made you feel and the benefits that you’ve experienced by doing it. Looking at your own community and identifying opportunities to improve local connections to nature for everyone who lives there.
The human connection to nature is more important than almost anything else - much more so than our interactions with tech or money, for example. It’s something that we need to nurture for our own mental health and for that of generations to come.
The Grove is a leading provider of quality CPD counselling courses in mental health.