Nature's Medicine

The importance of getting outdoors for mental health

November 1, 2021

The importance of getting outdoors for mental health

November 1, 2021

Time spent in nature has never been so important. We live in an era where screentime sucks up most of our waking hours. Working from home looks like endless video meetings and email chains, and both our social life and solo downtime can be spent glued to technology. Studies report that the average American spends more than 10 hours a day staring at a screen. 10 hours per day? That is mind-blowing. We are not made for this, and our mental health is suffering. It’s time to disconnect with our screens and reconnect with nature.


Studies show that with regular doses of nature, whether that be a 20-minute lunch break in an urban park, or a day spent walking in a remote forest, you would be less stressed and more connected, focused, recharged, relaxed, happier, and experience more positive emotions. These shifts are nothing short of life changing.

So how much time is enough? Studies show that people who spend at least 2 hours of recreational time in nature over a week, whether at once or spread across seven days, reported greater health and wellbeing. However, any time in nature was found to be better than none. Even watching a video or even looking at a photo of natural settings had a positive effect but getting away from city-life boasts the biggest positive impact on mental health. Humans are wired to be in nature.

Let’s dive into the benefits of nature a little deeper.


Nature and happiness

Time in nature is a powerful tool in reducing negative thoughts. The American Public Health Association found that being in nature is enough to significantly increase relaxation and therefore relieve feelings of stress and anxiety. Studies show that as little as 90 minutes walking in nature may help with depression and improve mental health, and that repetitive, negative self-talk (a known predictor for depressive episodes) is reduced. What’s more, people who spend time in nature were also found to act nicer to others and the environment.

Brain benefits

Time in nature is shown to have a powerful positive effect on the brain. Studies have found that any exposure to nature, whether in person, or even via video or pictures, led to improvements in brain function. And although the effect was stronger among those who spent time outdoors, this means that people with limited access to nature can still benefit. The main neural benefits are seen in attention, working memory, cognitive flexibility (switching between thoughts) and an ability to reflect on a life problem. For children, access to green spaces is also beneficial in promoting cognitive development, increasing self-control and the ability to focus.

Research suggests that stress reduction and attention restoration are related. And it’s our busy urban environments that are hindering brain function. Time in nature allows the fatigued brain to perk up and focus on the present.

Feeling connected

Humans are wired for connection with nature. Connecting with nature gives us time without an overload of external stimuli. This allows the brain to slow down, gain perspective and create some much-needed headspace. That’s why it’s a good idea to switch your phone to airplane mode when you’re spending time in nature — the constant stream of phone calls or texts can stop us from being present. Make this time about being where you are. Get away from the screen and simply soak up time in nature to reap the mental health benefits.


Getting into nature is a simple way to reduce negative thoughts and stress while boosting happiness, connection, and mental clarity. Time in nature is so important for our mental health, it’s a no-brainer.


So, get outdoors when you can. Finding green spaces that you can access regularly will both perk up your brain and improve your mental health. It’s time to disconnect with screens and reconnect with nature’s powerful medicine.

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