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Nature and mental health

Explains how nature can help your mental health. Gives tips and ideas to try, and suggests where to go for more information.

How can nature benefit my mental health?

Spending time in green space or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. For example, doing things like growing food or flowers, exercising outdoors or being around animals can have lots of positive effects. It can:

Nurturing something else into life has really helped my wellbeing. Gently caring for something helped me learn to care for myself.

We all have different experiences of nature, and different reasons for wanting to connect with it more. You might find you get something completely different from one activity compared to someone else.

Our pages on ideas to try in nature and getting started give lots of tips on how to bring some benefits from nature into your life, whatever your personal situation.

I've been getting out into nature and walking, either on my own or with dogs, to manage my bipolar disorder for years. It helps to keep me calm and physically healthy, and I love taking the time to be mindful of all the beautiful green spaces around me, even when living in a city.

Nature and mental health problems

Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. For example, research into ecotherapy (a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature) has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression. This might be due to combining regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature.

Being outside in natural light can be helpful if you experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects people during particular seasons or times of year. And people tell us that getting into nature has helped them with many other types of mental health problems.

Watching the birds and squirrels always has a calming effect and takes me out of my own head.

Anxieties about climate change can also have a big impact on our wellbeing. If climate change is affecting your mental health, spending time connecting to nature may be helpful. You could also get involved with conservation activities or campaigns to protect the environment.

See our information on helping the environment for suggestions, and have a look at The Wildlife Trusts, Groundwork and The Conservation Volunteers websites for more tips and ideas.

I've had mild to moderate problems with anxiety, depression and OCD all my life. In recent years volunteering on my local city farm has been the most therapeutic thing I've ever done, besides good talking therapy.

Jill's story: Ecominds and Wellbeing Comes Naturally

Watch Jill talk about how she has boosted her physical wellbeing and learnt new skills by volunteering at a TCV Green Gym in Regent's Park:

It is hard to explain the power of nature in relieving both my physical and mental stress. There is little more relaxing than sitting with a cup of tea looking at a hill through a window and hearing the nearby stream trickle away. There's something about the quiet calm of nature that is contagious, leaving a quiet calm in my mind.

This information was published in November 2021. We will revise it in 2024.

References and bibliography available on request.

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