Mental Health, Nature

Nature & Mental Health

Contributor: Bennett H. Jones, MSW, LICSW


fence-1853962_1920Nature has been integrated within different healthcare environments for centuries.  Gardens and courtyards have been set up near hospitals (or areas formerly referred to as infirmaries).  To this day, nature has become a driving force behind wellness programs.  Fitness groups are taking their cla
sses into the woods or at the very least outside, to get a break from “the four walls”.  Yoga classes are being offered in city centers surrounded by green grass and luscious plants, or on the edge of a lake.

Needless to say, the ideas are not new but they sure are sparking a revival in how we view health and wellness.  According to Bratman, Hamilton and Daily, Germany is one country that has a specific nature component built into their hospitals and it goes by the name Kur.  The Kur includes things like walks in nature and the use of herbal remedies in addition to modern medicine (p.119).  

One need not be a real-estate guru to know that properties near nature, be it lakes, rivers, streams or woodlands, come with a price tag.  Being near nature is something people long for.  Within sociology, psychology and related fields (e.g. social work, marriage and family therapy), it is broadly accepted that a sense of belonging is of vital importance to us as people.  We all need community, connection and the common element in both of them, a sense of belonging.  Environmental scholar, Wilson suggested that people also require a similar sense of belonging with (and to) nature.  

Recently, there has been more written about the direct mental health benefits of being outdoors and in nature, which includes nature-based therapies. So, let’s talk about what the benefits are exactly . . . (After taking a brief visual vacation, below) 

lake-irene-1679708_1920

 

The following are trends associated with increased time in nature:

  • Increase in positive moods and decrease in negative moods.
  • Increase in attention and concentration.
  • Decrease in recovery time from certain medical illnesses, which have been noted from something as simple as having a window with a view of nature.
  • Decrease in overall stress level.

Parting Thoughts:

This is simply one article about the benefits of getting outside & in nature.  The studies I referenced did not explore other health benefits that are indirectly associated with nature, such as the benefits of vitamin D from sunlight for sufferers of depression.  This also doesn’t explore things such as benefits of swimming in natural waters (like lakes or seas), or healing benefits from aromas from nature (such as pine tree, essential oils, or scent you smell when in the woods).  With other related areas, the evidence supporting the “let’s go outside” message, is even stronger.  
For ideas of places to get outdoors, please see this list of suggestions (not exhaustive).

  • Locate a park in the area where you live.
  • Check out the registry of state parks
  • Open up a map of your state and look for bodies of water to explore
  • Ask a friend to go on a walk, to get the benefits for mental health and increase your connectivity with your support network!

References:

Bratman, G.N., Hamilton, J.P. and Daily, G.C.  (2012). The impacts of nature experience on human cognitive function and mental health.  Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences,  Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Mental Health, Trauma, Uncategorized

Trauma is Weird, man. . .

Contributor: Bennett Jones                Published:   2017   March 31

So, I’ve had strong intentions of remaining connected to those in my network in different disciplines.  It’s sort of one of those beautiful things about knowing people in different professions.  People often make jokes about different trades.  For example, you may wonder whether an engineer sees a glass of water as half full or half empty.  The answer to the riddle, if you can call it that, is that the engineer responds that the container is twice the size that it needs to be.

While it seems light and playful, I really find joy in maintaining meaningful connections with people in different fields.  Through one of my friends in the field of breath work and yoga, I learned of a book called Pain is Really Strange.  Scholarly books are interesting to me, but this had a cartoon-like style to it which drew me in.  As I opened the pages, I noticed that this book conveyed very academically complicated concepts into visuals for one to digest visually.  I later found that a complementary book was published, called Trauma is Really Strange.  As complicated as our minds can be, this book dares to dive in to explaining how some of the connections work with the mind and body, when a traumatic event is experienced.  It is especially impressive how the concepts are demonstrated without oversimplifying things. prs-out-now-v1

The book is from England, but is well circulated within the United States (unlike books that require hefty shipping due to their international shipping).  I plan to explore different ways I can demonstrate idiosyncratic and nuanced psychological phenomena in a similar fashion to author Steve Haines and illustrator, Sophie Standing.

I will share more if I begin any writings along these lines, but until then I would like to recommend this book to any professional (be it physician, chiropractor, yoga teacher or psychotherapist).