top of page

Nature x Mental Health

Protecting the Planet & Your Peace

Think of the most calming memory you can imagine. Think of your favorite place in the world. Think of how you’d like to spend a vacation. I bet that each prompt brought nature to the front of your mind.

When I think of a calming memory, I think of watching the sun rise over the ocean. Listening to the waves crashing and the cries of shorebirds, feeling the sand beneath my toes, touching primordial shells and stones which have existed long before I, compared to whose presence I am just the blink of an eye.

When I think of my favorite place in the world, I think of the Pine Barrens of NJ. Being so deep in the forest, my footfalls are silenced by the blanket of pine needles so high, my feet don’t touch the ground. Immersed in the Earthy smells, seeking unique plants whose existence I may miss entirely if I’m not paying attention.

When I think of taking a vacation, I think of hiking through a vibrant forest, or skiing across a wintry white landscape, or relaxing on the beach and letting the sun rejuvenate me. No matter what I think of when I hear the word vacation, a natural space and a nature-based activity are always the thoughts at the front of my mind.

I ask this prompt to set the stage for nature’s influence on mental health. I think of nature as a teacher, healer, muse, mentor and even a friend. When I think of my childhood and the moments I felt most happy and safe, I think of sitting in my favorite old oak tree, whose limbs seemed to touch the sky. Even in my distant memory, nature sticks out to me as it provides me with so much comfort, joy and fulfillment.

At M.E. Society, we are all about forging meaningful connections with nature to benefit mental health, and taking care of the planet to, by extension, care for ourselves as well. Not only does most of our food and medicine and needs for a healthy life come from the environment (see our recent blog about Beneficial Weeds), but there is so much medicine for your physical and mental well-being to be found in nature intrinsically. 

Connection with nature is associated with lower depression and anxiety.

Spending time outside and breathing fresh air can raise levels of oxygen in your brain, which can boost levels of serotonin. Additionally, exercising outdoors, including bicycling, hiking, kayaking and more, can increase your production of endorphins as well. You might be surprised to find how your mood improves by sitting in the sun for a few minutes, or listening to the chorus of birds in the trees and the breeze. Even if you don’t have easy access to nature, hanging up pictures of natural scenes or putting on bird/whale/wind sounds and engineering an artificial natural environment can be beneficial.

Nature can generate many positive emotions, such as calmness and joy.

Go back to our  “think of a calm memory” exercise. For me, when I search for serenity in my brain, I think of the sun rising over the ocean, or a summer rain storm, or a babbling stream in a green forest. So many of the “ordinary” occurrences in nature can be soothing to observe - the ebb and flow of the sea, the pitter patter of rain on leaves, the whisper of the wind. Meditating in nature, or even spending a few minutes outside with your eyes closed, seeing with your other senses, can produce calmness and joy and other positive emotions. Again, if you can’t physically be outside (which is ideal) try to engineer this same environment in your home - light a nature-inspired candle, turn the lights down low, put on some nature sounds, and reconnect with yourself.

Spending time in nature can spark creativity & exposure to nature can facilitate concentration.

Spending time in nature can help you recharge and focus, which by extension can enhance creative ways of thinking. Nature especially plays a role in the Preparation phase and the Incubation phase of the creative process. We strongly encourage you to spend some time outside just observing and enjoying your local environment and let your creative juices flow. Personally, spending time in nature has helped us create compelling photography projects, write meaningful poetry, use our drawing skills to create nature journals, and do nature-based crafts! If you have the time to spend outside, try it for just 30 minutes. If you don’t - try it for an hour.

These are just a few ways that spending time in nature can be beneficial for mental health. Whether it is performing a nature-based exercise, or making a creative piece, or even just sitting and being still, there are many ways that your well-being can be enhanced through exposure to nature. 

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page