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Nature and mental health

The effcts of Nature on our mental health

Spending time in nature has been found to:

-Reduce anxiety

-Increase focus

-Improve creativity

-Reduce bloodpressure

-Stabilise moods

But how does nature effect us?

Well, there are a couple of explanations...

Attention-restoration theory

Some view the brain as a muscle, so when you have a heavy workload or when you are looking at a built up, urban setting it involves directed attention causing mental fatigue.

Much like a rigorous workout.

So, what do we do after a workout? We rest and recuperate.

When looking at natural elements the brain is involved in indirected attention , charcterised by fascination.

This has a restorative effect on the brain, allowing the brain to rest and recover to combat the fatigue.

An evolutionary view...

Another interesting view is that nature has a calming effect on our physiology.

Natural elements are viewed as an unconditioned stimuli associated with enviroments that were safe and rich with resources in our evolutionary past.

Just like when we see spiders, snakes or heights we can feel anxious or stressed, when we view natural spaces, we feel calm or peaceful.

The brain regions

When looking at urban scenes the parts of the brain activated include:

The hippocampus-locus for memory

The amygdala- locus for anger and fear

This would suggest that the brain may be using more energy for working memory and the arousal of stressful emotions.

When looking at natural scenes the part of the brain activated include:

The Basal ganglia - the part of the brain related to pleasure.

This would suggest that the brain may be in a state of rest and delight

How can you add nature into your day-to-day life?

House plants

Go for a walk outside

Pictures of green spaces

Take time to look at nature

Stop and smell the roses... literally!

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