Nature’s Role in Mental Illness: Prevention or Treatment? | Core Spirit
November 24

Nature’s Role in Mental Illness: Prevention or Treatment?

If you’re searching for some type of natural healing to reach or keep a good mental state, what better place to begin than out in wilderness? You might instinctively feel the advantages of a day at the beach or a weekend wilderness jaunt, but is there any real proof that being outside is beneficial for your mental health?

While it has yet to be found whether activities such as walking through a desert or sitting on a bench in a city park are as restorative as, for example, hiking on a wooded mountain trail or swimming in coastal waters, scientists at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City have revealed that there are substantial mental health advantages to be found from taking part in outdoor activities. Their systematic review of the existing studies of the mental health benefits of nature-based recreation, published in the Journal of Leisure Research, confirmed that spending time outdoors, and especially taking part in outdoor activities, can result in a range of positive mental health outcomes.

More than 80% of the relevant scientific literature reviewed for this research demonstrated at least one association between outdoor activities and positive mental health results, while none revealed a single negative mental health outcome. The most common positive benefits seen were large reductions in and after time spent in nature, as well as boosted positive affect, or elevated mood. The overall positive effects recorded in these papers were often described using terms such as “psychological healing," "increased sense of well-being,” and “restorative.” While there were many inspiring outcomes, nonetheless, fewer links were found between nature-based activities and boosted positive affect in research that examined the potential benefits for those with mental health diagnoses.

In general, the research authors demonstrated that nature-based recreation has a strong potential to enhance mental health results in the fields of overall well-being and restoration with some potential for lowering symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. Simultaneously, more studies involving particular kinds of outdoor activities are required to provide the clinical evidence many mental health practitioners need in order to include more important recommendations for nature-based recreation in their treatment programs.

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