The Healing Power of Nature | The Indigo Project

The Healing Power of Nature: Outdoor activities for Mental Wellbeing

In a world dominated by screens and urbanisation, it’s easy to get swept up in the business of it all and forget the great benefits that nature can have on our mental health.

It’s science-backed: immersing in nature helps reduce stress, cultivate creativity, and boost mood. Basically, the healing power of the natural world is undeniable.

Let’s delve into how nature helps us out:

Man meditating outside

Stress reduction

Nature serves as a sanctuary from life’s daily stressors. Natural landscapes help reduce cortisol levels (aka the hormone that is responsible for producing stress), and therefore promotes rest and relaxation. Even spending short periods of time in nature e.g., taking a walk around your local trail each day, can drastically reduce stress levels and enhance mental health.

Improved mood

Exposure to nature is linked to boosts of serotonin – the neurotransmitter that helps regulation our mood. The combination of sunlight, fresh air and greenery also triggers the release of endorphins – basically our natural mood elevators, leading to an increased sense of happiness and joy. Whether it’s a short walk in the park or a hike in the mountains, just spending time outdoors positively impacts our emotional state.

Increased cognitive function

Time spent in natural surroundings enhances brain function – our concentration, creativity, and problem-solving skills all benefit from the great outdoors. Being in nature allows our brain to catch some r&r, improving mental clarity and focus – just like our bodies need rest, so does our mind. Research says that nature can improve attention span and alertness, making time outside an effective way for boosting productivity and innovation.

Enhanced physical activity

Being outdoors naturally encourages us to move our bodies, no matter if it’s trekking through a forest, paddling in a lake, or even walking around your backyard. Regular exercise is proven to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, whilst boosting physical health like strength, stamina, and flexibility. The combo of exercise in nature provides us with a holistic approach to mental and physical well-being.

Connection

Natural landscapes can help foster social connections and build supportive social networks. Engaging in outdoor activities with friends, family or even strangers, encourages social bonding and shared experiences. Whether it’s having a picnic in the park, a camping trip with loved ones, or attending a social run club, spending time in nature with others strengthens social ties, increasing feelings of belonging and general well-being.

Now that you know the benefits, here are 5 outdoorsy activities to try out the next time you are needing a pick-me-up:

1. Forest bathing

Originating from Japan, forest bathing is a meditative practice all about immersing our senses in the greenery of forests. Forest bathing is known to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and boost our immunity. Spending time walking intentionally through a forested area while slowly observing the sights, sounds and smells can have profound mental health benefits. It encourages mindfulness and fosters a deep connection to nature, making it an valuable strategy to improve our mental health.

2. Gardening

Nurturing a garden is a therapeutic outlet for stress, whilst gifting us a sense of mastery and accomplishment. Whether it’s planting flowers, growing vegetables, or tending to indoor houseplants, gardening is a way for us to engage with nature whilst reaping the mental rewards of growing living organisms.

3. Outdoor yoga and meditation

Practicing yoga or meditation outdoors combines the benefits of mindful movement with the healing power of nature. Whether it’s finding a shady spot under a tree for an afternoon yoga session or meditating by a flowing river, merging these practices with an outdoor environment can promote deep relaxation, focus, and spiritual well-being.

4. Birdwatching

Birdwatching offers a curious and reflective away to connect with nature while engaging in a mindful activity. By observing birds in your backyard, at local parklands or venturing to the birding hotspots, the act of watching and identifying different birds promotes mindful awareness, interest, and appreciation for nature. Birdwatching encourages us to pause, slow down, and observe the beauty that mother nature has to offer. It is a useful way to boost present moment awareness and mental health.

5. Nature photography

Capturing the beauty of the great outdoors through photography provides a creative outlet for self-expression whilst encouraging mindful observation of natural landscapes and wildlife. You can use a smartphone, grab a digital or even film camera, to immerse in the present details and appreciate the wonder, and capture fleeting moments in the world around us. Photography is a great activity to promote mindfulness and reduce stress and anxiety.

Being open to the healing power of nature

Amidst the business of our urban world and screen time, finding time in nature is essential for nurturing our mental well-being. We at The Indigo Project believe that by prioritising outdoor activities into our routine, we can cultivate a deeper connection to nature and boost our general well-being to live a more mindful, creative, fulfilled, and awe-inspired life.

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ayanthi de silva, Registered Psychologist

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bre elder, Senior Psychologist

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dr navit gohar-kadar, Clinical Psychologist

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natasha kasselis, Senior Psychologist

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