Statistics from the mental health charity Mind show that approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health issue in any given year. It’s vital to look after our psychological wellbeing, as well as our physical health, and a growing number of studies are finding empirical evidence revealing the link between interactions with nature and improved mental health.
The increased urbanisation of our towns and cities can make it difficult for people to access green outdoor spaces but integrating nature into our homes and offices can ensure there’s still a significant positive impact on our mental wellbeing.
Human wellbeing is linked to the environment in a number of ways, as outlined in works such as G. C. Daily’s, ‘Nature’s Services: Societal Dependence on Natural Ecosystems’.
Many of the contributions that nature makes to human quality of life are known as ‘ecosystem services’ and these include aspects as diverse as water purification, provision of crops and temperature regulation.
Until relatively recently, the main body of research has focused on nature’s contribution to the earth’s climate and practical aspects of human life such as food, water and shelter. However, there is a growing area of research focusing specifically on the direct impact that nature has on mental health and the many ways that it can benefit mental wellbeing.
A study referenced in an article by The Independent found that prescribing contact with nature for people with poor mental health could save almost £7 for every £1 invested in projects. The research, conducted by Leeds Beckett University, found that spending time in nature helped those suffering from problems such as anxiety, stress or depression to feel better, both physically and mentally.
An astonishing 95% of people taking part in the study found that their mental wellbeing had improved following six weeks of working in nature for five to six hours a week.
This type of commitment may not be possible for everyone, especially for those who live in inner cities, but there’s plenty of further evidence to suggest that green indoor ‘break-out’ areas can still have the same positive effects. Spending time around nature has a myriad of benefits, including increased confidence, reduced stress, improved mood and greater relaxation.
Naturally, it may be more difficult for those living in busy urban areas to access extensive green spaces outdoors, but there are plenty of ways to create a mental health-friendly area in an urban home or workplace. Break out areas with an internal living wall, green roof spaces or a small vegetable garden are all excellent ways to bring some nature to you.
We’re committed to creating greener, cleaner and healthier spaces for future generations through increased environmental education. For an introduction to our work and the ANS Living Wall System, click here to find out more.