As we approach Winter it can be useful to acknowledge the importance of nature to positive mental health. With temperatures dropping and days shortening, it becomes easier to stay inside. However, when you are outside amongst nature it is an all-consuming experience, not only providing your body with Vitamin D and reducing stress but acting as a distraction from aspects of life that can feel unshakeable.
The environment can be split into two different categories: green and blue spaces. These groupings are rather self-explanatory, with green space being anything filled with greenery, although as the leaves begin to brown it is important to remember that these spaces, although not green, are still capable of improving mental health. Areas of greenery often encourage us to be more active, walking or cycling to see more of the surroundings. Blue space, on the other hand, refers to areas of water somewhere where one is more introspective, watching the slow but ceaseless movement around them. It can be beneficial to recognise your preferred area, as knowing if you respond better to green or blue spaces can help during bad mental health days.
The seaside is an example most thought of when reflecting upon the healing powers of the environment on mental health and falls into the category of a blue space. In the Victorian era, a trip to the beach was often recommended for melancholy, a type of depression that is categorized by persistent helplessness and sadness, with patients seeing differences after a few weeks in the salty air. When thinking of why the seaside has such a healing effect, it can be useful to think of the all-consuming experience of being at the beach. The rhythmic sound of the waves acts as white noise with its continuous repetition, the ebb and flow of the tides, and the experience is the same for every beach, meaning no matter where you go along the coast a seaside haven can be found. When looking out at the blue of the sea, like the effect of a lake or stream, it can have a calming and positive effect on mental health.
A walk through a field is one of my preferred examples of green spac
e. Although this experience is much less repetitive than the seaside, finding new footpaths to explore and discovering different flora and fauna is an equally absorbing task. Activities like picnics or reading in parks can help mental health by taking inside activities outside and encouraging us to engage with our world more.
The healing power of nature is simply harnessed by stepping outside, rain or shine to enjoy fresh air. Its power lies in its ability to remind us that the world is much bigger than the problems locked away in rooms of artificial light and dust.