For those who suffer from anxiety, everyday tasks can be challenging. But a new study has found that in people with pre-existing mental health conditions, including outdoor nature-based activities could help to improve mental health.
Researchers from the University of York were able to show through their study that taking part in outdoor nature-based activities could lead to less anxiety, improved mood, and more positive emotions.
For the study, researchers screened 14,321 NBI records and analyzed 50 studies. They were able to conclude that activities lasting longer than 20 to 90 minutes sustained over 8 to 12 weeks have the most favorable outcomes for improving mood and reducing anxiety.
Among the activities that were most associated with mental health benefits were gardening and outdoor exercise. Engaging in conversation also had a positive effect and made people feel better.
‘Forest bathing’ was also highlighted as an outdoor nature-based activity that had an impact on mental wellness. This relatively new idea involves people going into a forest to take in the atmosphere.
Researchers suggest those who suffer from anxiety may benefit from nature-based interventions (NBIs) that support people and help them engage with nature in a structured way to improve mental health.
While it has long been known that being in nature is good for health and well-being, this study reinforces the growing evidence that participating in outdoor activities is associated with large gains in mental health. Doing activities individually is effective, but doing them in a group can lead to more significant gains in mental health.
This study did not find any improvement in physical activity health from outdoor activities. They suggest that more appropriate ways to measure the impact on physical health are needed.
A Need for More Solutions
This study helps to argue that there is a substantial need for sustained investment in the community and place-based solutions such as nature-based interventions. This may play an important role in addressing a post-pandemic surge in demand for mental health support.
“One of the key ideas that might explain why nature-based activities are good for us is that they help to connect us with nature in meaningful ways that go beyond passively viewing nature,” said lead author Dr. Coventry.
This critical research is just the beginning of a surge of studies looking into mental health. With the current pandemic unfolding around the world, many are feeling the effects and will be looking for treatments for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.