Nature Therapy For Anxiety Treatment
What is it? Have you ever spent time in nature and just felt better after? If so, without even trying, you experienced nature therapy for anxiety treatment. Nature has a way of working its healing powers on our minds, bodies, hearts and spirits. In a lot of ways, you can actually say, “Nature’s Got Your Back.”
While this may seem very new age-y, the healing benefits that nature can have on anxiety are tremendous. Spending time in nature has also been scientifically proven to help reduce anxiety. If in doubt, it really is worth trying nature therapy for anxiety treatment.
In a very real way, nature therapy is anxiety treatment. In all my years as a therapist I have been amazed at how much people benefit from simply spending some time (not even a lot of time) immersed in nature.
Many people spend time in nature to help reduce anxiety and stress by:
- Walking in nature
- Doing Yoga outside
- Physical activity outdoors
- Sitting outside reading
- Watching wildlife
- Riding a bike through a park
- Playing games with friends in nature
The list is endless really! However, most people don’t necessarily understand why nature therapy for anxiety treatment works. Keep reading to find out what the science says about the healing power of nature on anxiety.
Benefit 1: Nature Grounds You (Yes literally!)
As humans, we are naturally drawn to nature. From the trees, to the sky, to big grass patches, to water in all its forms, plants, flowers, not to mention all of the beautiful creatures living in nature – nature has a way of holding our attention. But, this is more than just because nature is pretty.
When we are outside in nature, our focus is on our surroundings. When you go outside during particularly bad moments of anxiety, you may find you feel less stress. This is because for a few minutes, our focus is not on our problems or ruminating thoughts.
Instead, we are concentrating on the sights, sounds, and smells that nature provides. This is the beauty of nature therapy for anxiety treatment – it starts working as soon as you get outside!
This is best proven through one form of nature based therapy called forest bathing (and no, this doesn’t mean actually taking a bath)! Forest bathing is a therapeutic method that was first developed in Japan.
All it involves is using the five senses — sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste when you are surrounded by nature, especially trees. It helps to connect you with nature and simultaneously distract you from the anxiety that is building in your mind while also lowering the anxiety you feel in your body!
Benefit 2: Nature Lowers Anxiety Symptoms
When you are out in nature, you are likely “unplugged” from technology. Or you should be! We are so surrounded by technology that we often forget how much it consumes our lives. When you spend time in nature, try to be in the present moment and take a break from emails or social media. It will be there when you are done!
Nature therapy for anxiety treatment can be as simple as taking a break from electronics for 15 minutes. This has been proven to reduce heart rate! In one study, those who were unplugged from electronics had a lower heart rate throughout the day than those who weren’t.
So if you feel like your heart is about to beat right out of your chest, leave your electronics behind and sit outside for about 15 minutes. We can almost guarantee your heart rate will feel much more steady.
Also, by getting outside into the sunshine, you are giving your body a healthy, natural dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important overall for the body and the mind. It is a mood booster and also helps to lower blood pressure.
In another study, people who spent 30 minutes gardening vs. those who were inside noted improved overall moods. Not only that, but research done on these participants who spent time outside had significantly lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. How amazing (and easy) is that?!
When we are breathing fresh air, our body does not work as hard to get oxygen into our system. Thus, it does not have to force us to breathe harder like we do when we are inside. Breathing techniques are scientifically proven to reduce anxiety. So when you are outside in nature and your breathing rhythm slows, you are literally using nature to help fight your anxiety. For more about learning how to breathe to increase feelings of support in nature and in life, please read about soothing rhythm breathing HERE
Benefit 3: Nature Helps Achieve a Meditative State
Do you instantly feel calmer when you are near bodies of water? There’s a reason for that! Nature therapy for anxiety treatment is known to create a meditative state in the brain without you actively trying to do so! As mentioned before, forest bathing often creates a meditative and mindful state when in wooded areas. Similarly, Blue Mind Science, describes the meditative state we effortlessly fall into when surrounded by water, or being in water.
Research has proven that being close to water can increase happiness levels and calm you down rather quickly. And here is a great extra tip thanks to neuroscience discoveries, even if you can’t get outside and actually connect with ‘real’ nature, just watching a nature scene on your TV, or even closing your eyes and imagining yourself in nature will create a similar physical / mental response and help lower anxiety. So you can actually take your nature therapy for anxiety treatment anywhere you go (even indoors)!
There are countless ways that nature can help heal you and these were just a few. If you are interested in learning more about nature therapy for anxiety treatment and discuss how this might be able to help you, please reach out to my Honolulu or London office to get started. Click to learn more about nature therapy for anxiety treatment or anxiety treatment in general.
I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Hawaii and an Accredited CBT Therapist in the UK with over 15 years of experience. I specialize in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Anxiety Treatment using CBT, online therapy incorporating exercise and physical movement, and nature therapy for anxiety treatment
I have received advanced specialist training in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Compassion Focused Therapy. Over the years I have helped many people suffering with Anxiety learn how to manage their thoughts, emotions and behaviors and ultimately feel better using Cognitive Behavior Therapy and getting outside in nature. Please reach out to my Honolulu or London clinic to set up an Anxiety Treatment Test Drive.