Not all muscle is built in the gym. You can build mental muscle just by being in nature. Whether you walk in a nearby park or you canoe down the river, studies show being in nature can have a positive impact on your psychological well-being.
Here are five ways nature can help you build mental strength, according to science:
Being in nature improves your mental health.
Several studies have shown that spending time in nature can make you happy. But a recent Stanford study found taking a walk in the woods could also lower your risk of depression. Perhaps this is why people living in rural areas have a 20 percent lower risk of anxiety disorders and a 40 percent lower risk of mood disorders compared to people living in urban areas.
Walking in green spaces offer restorative effects.
Spending time in nature could improve your concentration and reduce your mental fatigue, according to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Even a quick walk in the park during your lunch break could be instrumental in helping you stay on task for the rest of the day.
Looking at landscape scenes reduces emotional and physical pain.
Researchers discovered that hospital patients with a window that overlooks green space tend to get discharged sooner than other patients because they get well faster. A 2010 study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine found that patients could reduce their pain and decrease their anxiety just by looking at pictures of nature.
Living in greener areas is related to increased life satisfaction.
Living within a 2.5-mile radius of green spaces could improve your life satisfaction by 2 percent, according to a 2013 study published in Psychological Science. The UK researchers found that planting gardens and adding parks improved the well-being of everyone in the neighborhood, regardless of an individual’s marital status, income, health, commute, and job.
Watching the ocean reduces your stress.
There’s a good reason you might want to spring for the hotel room with an ocean view—it’ll reduce your psychological distress. And according to a 2016 study published in Health & Place, spending time on the ocean could reduce your chances of developing depression and anxiety. In addition to being calmer, being by the water has also been found to boost creativity.
Develop Your Mental Muscle
Becoming mentally stronger doesn’t require you to endure lots of pain or test your body’s physical limits. Instead, it’s about training your brain to think differently. And spending time in nature—whether you’re hiking through the mountains or planting a community garden—could be one of the simplest ways to build mental strength.
View Amy’s TEDx talk at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFbv757kup4