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Improving Mood & Focus thru Nature

Improve Mood and Focus Through Nature

BUT. . . what if going outside is not easy?

By Holly Silvester, LPC

Einsten once said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

nature and mood new directions counselingIn the midst of our busy schedules, people seem to find themselves in a “screen time” rut. Plus, other things have secluded them from nature. This tendency makes it easy to forget we are actually a part of nature. Therefore, spending time outdoors has a positive influence on your well-being.

Environmental psychology explores the relationship between an individual and their environment. It examines the impact of your natural environment, social settings, built environments, learning and informational habitats have on you.

Let’s focus on how spending time in nature can have a positive impact on stress reduction, mood management and how we think (cognitive functioning).

Theories of Nature and Focus

Psychoevolutionary theory (PET) argues the human connection between nature and mood may be genetically predetermined because ancestrally we had to survive in nature by collecting and managing the resources. Attention Restoration Theory (ART)defends the point that spending time in nature can help people refocus and concentrate better.  It explains that by simply distracting one’s attention from the “stress of society” and focusing on things like the clouds in the sky or the leaves on the ground can have restorative implications.

Research initiatives and contemporary articles support the notion that spending time in nature can help with boosting creativity, improving problem solving skills, sharpening mental focus, decreasing irrational and obsessive thinking and many more.

With our local climate and the seemingly prolonged wintery months, getting outdoors may seem impossible for those of us who do not engage in outdoor winter activities such as skiing. The true test may be to make an effort to get outdoors at least one time each day. One moment of nature each day will help you measure an increase in emotional wellness or not.

Impact of Sun

Research over the years has revealed positive impacts on people’s mental health due to sun exposure. The sun increases the production of serotonin leading to more positive, fluid connections in your brain. It also interacts with the regulation and production of melatonin. This is vital in the circadian rhythms associated with sleep. Finally, the combination of increased Vitamin D production and lower blood pressure, it is time to experience this great gift.

Here are some quick tips on how to experience the nature:

  • Look at Nature Scenes – some research also supports that looking at photos of natural scenery can also boost mood and wellness. Participants who viewed scenes from the natural environment, the parts of their brain associated with empathy and love lit up
  • Listen to Nature Sounds – listening to nature can help relax us and improve our mood. Studies have revealed reduced muscle tension and heart rate.
  • Care for House Plants – succulents take very little care and plants offer both a visual and life breathing stress reliever.
  • Take a Window Hike – if you can’t get out, sit by your window, especially for a moment of sun, and observe the constant flow of nature. Become a detective and find small birds, growing things
  • Sit or Stand Outdoors – tune into more natural sights and smells through all of your senses outside.

In summary, most people will report improved mood, focus and a sense of overall well-being after spending even a short amount of time in nature. Rate your overall wellness both before and after doing an activity. Choose one listed above in order to measure its success for yourself. Also, continued practice of these activities will likely have a more lasting impact and may be added to your growing list of healthy and proactive coping skills.

If you are looking for additional ideas for improving your mood. If you picture yourself talking to someone about it – give our warm, caring team a call – 724.934.3905