Time in Nature and Mental Health

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

A previous post examined a variety of leisure activities and mental health (1).

In this post, we look at time spent in nature and its impact on self reports of good health and well-being (2).

Who was studied? (2)

19,806 participants from the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Survey (2014/15–2015/16). (2)

What was studied? (2)

Researchers (2) looked at the relationship between time spent in nature in the last 7 days (in 60 min categories) and self-reported health (Good vs. poor) and subjective well-being (High vs. low) (2).

What were the results? (2)

  • The authors (2) found that Compared to no nature contact last week, the likelihood of reporting good health or high well-being became significantly greater with contact ≥120 mins (2).
  • Positive associations peaked between 200–300 mins per week with no further gain (2).
  • It did not matter how 120 mins of contact a week was achieved (e.g. one long vs. several shorter visits/week). (2)

What are some caveats?

  • This was a cross-sectional study design, which tells us about association, not cause and effect.
  • Benefits remained even when accounting for living in a low green space area (2).
  • Other research (3) indicates health benefits of walking in a forested area for ~16 minutes and viewing for ~14 minutes.

What are some examples of other healthy leisure activities (4)?

  • Spending quiet time alone
  • Visiting others
  • Eating with others
  • Doing fun things with others
  • Clubs/fellowship, and religious group participation
  • Vacationing
  • Communing with nature
  • Playing or watching sports
  • Hobbies

Also consider:

  • Working out or taking exercise classes
  • Meditating
  • Volunteering
  • Participating in an activities based student organization
  • Journaling
  • Drawing/coloring/painting

Anything else that can help?

In addition to leisure activities, the following activities can also help with physical and emotional health, wellness, stress:

sleep habits, etc.) (4)

  • Avoiding harmful habits(smoking, drug use, excessive alcohol, poor or inadequate nutrition, etc) (4)
  • This balance might vary from person to person.

Are there any campus resources on play?

Could spending time in nature benefit you?

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2018/09/27/leisure-academics-and-mental-health/
  2. White MP, Alcock I, Grellier J, et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):7730. Published 2019 Jun 13. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3.
  3. Park, B. J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., Kagawa, T. & Miyazaki, Y. The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environ Health Prev 15, 18–26 (2010).
  4. Pressman, S. D, et. al. Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and Physical Well-Being. Psychosomatic Medicine: September 2009 – Volume 71 – Issue 7 – pp 725-732 doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978Top of Form