Nature-Based Activities can Reduce Anxiety: Study

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Outdoor nature-based activities can help adults, particularly those with mental health difficulties, improve their mental health, according to a new study.

The research findings were published in the journal “SSM – Population Health.” The study, sponsored by the University of York, found that participating in outdoor, nature-based activities boosted mood, reduced anxiety, and increased pleasant feelings. The study discovered that activities lasting 20 to 90 minutes that are continued for 8 to 12 weeks have the best results for increasing mood and lowering anxiety.

Gardening and exercise were two of the activities linked to improved mental health. People said that participating in conservation activities, as well as ‘forest bathing,’ made them feel better — stopping in a forest to take in the atmosphere.

Nature-based treatments (NBIs) help people improve their mental health by encouraging them to engage with nature in a systematic fashion.

Researchers evaluated 14,321 NBI records and analyzed 50 studies as part of the investigation. “We’ve known for a long time that being in nature is excellent for health and wellbeing,” said lead author Dr. Peter Coventry of the Department of Health Sciences, “but our study strengthens the accumulating evidence that doing things in nature is connected with big increases in mental health.”

“While doing these exercises on your own is useful, it appears that doing them in groups results in larger mental health advantages,” Dr. Coventry stated.

Outdoor activities, on the other hand, were shown to have less evidence of improving physical health, according to the study. The findings say more accurate methods for measuring the short- and long-term effects of nature-based activities on physical health are needed.

According to the report, there is a need for significant, long-term investment in community and place-based solutions like nature-based therapies, which are expected to play a key role in addressing a post-pandemic rise in demand for mental health services.

Dr. Coventry continued, “One of the main hypotheses that might explain why nature-based activities are healthy for humans is that they enable us interact with nature in meaningful ways that go beyond simply seeing nature.”

The research is part of the York Environmental Sustainability Institute’s new “Environment and Health” research topic (YESI). In a study supported by the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, Dr. Coventry and co-author Professor Piran White are currently collaborating with collaborators at the University of Central Lancashire to further understand the health advantages of green social prescribing.

The study included researchers from York University’s Department of Health Sciences, Department of Environment and Geography, York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI), Hull York Medical School, and Stockholm Environment Institute.

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