Can nature help improve our mood in lockdown?

Written by KlerksdorpRecord. Posted in Environmental Protection • Omgewingsake

At a time when so many of us are facing a heightened sense of threat as well as deep worries about our future, can nature lift our spirits?

“Our current crisis has switched us out of normal existence and survival mode,” says Dr Anna Jorgensen, who researches the connection between environment and wellbeing at the University of Sheffield. “We no longer see ourselves as quite so immortal,” she says.

With far more people unable to work, or working from home, many have been inspired to explore nature in their neighbourhood as they refocus on their immediate surroundings. It takes a lockdown to find new paths from home. As factory and car emissions have declined, there are fewer tiny, particles in the air, so, it’s easier to see beyond built-up areas and to the stars in the night sky. Less city noise also highlights the sounds of birds.

There is also greater interest in gardening. Google Trends shows a doubling of worldwide online searches for compost and seeds compared with a year ago.

Can experiences in nature help us manage stress and anxiety?

While the impact of experiencing nature on our physical health is less well documented, a wealth of studies have demonstrated the positive effects of the natural world on our mental health.
Even a brief nature fix - 10 minutes of wind brushing across our cheek, or the sun on our skin - can lower stress explains Dr Mathew White from the University of Exeter.

If we immense ourselves in beautiful landscapes, like a rich coastline or a wild forest teeming with an array of species, we feel more intense emotions, he adds.

Connecting with nature can help us feel happier and more energised, with an increased sense of meaning and purpose, as well as making tasks seem more manageable.

Nature-based activities, such as gardening and farming have been used as part of mental health treatments around the world for centuries. Medical doctors have been prescribing nature experiences for patients with depression and anxiety. These include a healthy walk or planting mint, to nurture and grow.

Evidence indicates you can also benefit from “bathing” yourself in nature remotely. One experiment installed plasma displays of real-time natural sense outside an office, resulting in people’s connection or their wider social community and the natural world increasing.

Sounds have a particular power to evoke memory. So your feelings can be enhanced by listening to recordings of natural sounds, such as crashing waves, squawks of birds or wild animals like lions, after you’ve experienced them in person or watched a powerful film or programme featuring that landscape. In seeing the recurrent rhythms and rebirth of nature in which plants and animals survive despite the harshness of winter can also offer us hope and help us cope with the tragedies in our lives?

Why does nature have such a positive effect? Part of nature’s power lies in its ability to wash away whatever is provoking a lot of our stress. Slow movements such as the ripples of water or clouds moving across the sky place effortless demands on our working memory but to distract us from spiralling rumination, self-blame and hopelessness.

Tending to a plant helps us to appreciate the power we have to nature, and gives us a sense of achievement when the plant flourishes is particularly important for those struggling with their mental health.

Tips to experience more nature

* The benefits are maximised if we can spend a total of two hours a week connecting with nature. The more senses we use - not only sight and sound but also smell, feel and taste - the greater the benefits.

* Pay regular visits to a tree where you live to see changes to the leaves, blossoms or seeds. Do particular birds visit? Does its bark host lichen, moss or insects?

* Open a window to catch the sounds of leaves or scent of fresh air.

* Plant seeds, using ones you find in fruit or near trees if you can’t get hold of a packet. Think of nature when you are cooking savouring the bright colours and tart flavours of fruit such as redcurrants.

* When you inhale your morning coffee, imagine the rainforest birds that help cross-pollinate coffee plants.

* Incorporate natural design elements in your home, hanging branches or twigs on your walls or piling water-rounded stones on a shelf or windowsill.

* Walk first thing in the morning or before sunset, when the warm colours and low angle of light highlight the textures of the natural world including tree trunks and leaves.

l Johan Friedrich - LLM (Environmental Law and Governance) is a practising attorney in Klerksdorp. Readers are welcome to send comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or WhatsApp 083 306 0137

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