The Mental Health Benefits of Nature Exposure
Mounting evidence indicates that greater contact with nature can help alleviate anxiety, depression and other psychiatric conditions.
These effects may be linked with an inborn need of humans to connect with nature. The biophilia hypothesis by Wilson and Kellert claim that we “have an innate love for the natural world, universally felt by all, and resulting at least in part from our genetic make-up and evolutionary history.”5 Our separation from nature has been relatively recent. In the last 250 years, Townsend points out, and we have not adapted to this division.
She believes that the growing disconnection with our natural environment is exacerbating the escalating rates of mental illness and that mental health professionals should be prescribing time in nature as often as possible, as well as advocating on the policy level to help ensure access to green spaces for everyone.
“For this to happen, high quality parks, gardens and nature reserves need to be nearby, served by good public transport, affordable, safe, attractive, with good signage and interpretive information, well managed and maintained, and accessible to people with different physical needs,” she says. “If we are to prevent an upsurge in mental health issues, especially among children, we need to re-engage humans with nature as a matter of urgency.”
Tori Rodriguez, MA, LPC, is a psychotherapist and freelance writer based in Atlanta.
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- Bratman GN, Hamilton JP, Daily GC. The impacts of nature experience on human cognitive function and mental health. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences; 2012; 1249:118-36.