After two years of restrictions, mental health experts are recommending that people get out of the house and into nature. Lockdowns have had a devastating effect on our mental health.
The concern is that the spiralling number of people reporting mental health issues will continue to increase. Economic pressure and the long-lasting effects of isolation and limited social interaction has scarred the emotional wellbeing of billions.
Numerous studies show that social interaction is critical for positive mental and physical health. When humans are around friends and like-minded people, we adopt healthy behaviours and tend to have a positive outlook on the world.
A paper published on the US National Library of Medicine Nations Institutes of Health reads:
“Captors use social isolation to torture prisoners of war—to drastic effect. Social isolation of otherwise healthy, well-functioning individuals eventually results in psychological and physical disintegration, and even death. Over the past few decades, social scientists have gone beyond the evidence of extreme social deprivation to demonstrate a clear link between social relationships and health in the general population.”
On the flip side, there is a growing body of evidence that shows the healing qualities of Mother Nature. Benefits include lower stress levels, positive moods, upticks in empathy and improved cognitive function.
If you’ve noticed you’re suffering from symptoms associated with isolation and a lack of social interaction, the antidote for two years of isolation is to get out into nature with your family and friends.
The Benefits of Nature
Scientists say the health benefits of nature are clear. Although they can’t fathom how nature heals, they know it does. Countless studies demonstrate that being in nature has a positive effect on our mental, physical and emotional health.
In the Far East, taking advantage of the healing benefits of nature have been practised for thousands of years. In Japan, for example, the physiological and psychological exercise known as ‘forest bathing’ (shinrin-yoku), is a common pastime.
Shinrin yoku involves sitting or lying amongst the trees in a calm and quiet state of mind, breathing deeply and being aware of your surroundings.
If that sounds too spiritual for you, simply taking a walk through a forest can help you destress and post your emotional wellbeing. Studies have even shown that walking in your local green space is beneficial to your health.
Encouraging kids and teenagers to get into nature is of critical importance. Studies show that the last two years of lockdowns have taken their toll on the mental and emotional wellbeing of young people. The effects will continue into adulthood unless they are addressed now.
Mental health issues were on the rise even before the pandemic. In 2018, the rates of depressive symptoms in adolescents and young adults increased by 52% and 63% respectively. During the pandemic, teenage suicides rose to an all-time high.
Depressed teenagers are likely to resist nature walks with the family, but they are probably willing to go with their friends. There are all types of fun activities teenagers can enjoy such as abseiling, kayaking, mountain biking and zip-lining.
For younger children, why not make nature walks entertaining. If you get children to practise healthy habits when they are young, they will grow up with the same healthy habits. And getting out into nature seems to be one of the best things you can do – especially if you live in the concrete jungle.