Man standing in forest

"Try and find a weekly or bi-weekly time to get out into nature."

As the world becomes more urbanized and developed, it’s getting harder for people to find places where they can comfortably connect with nature. Studies have shown that consistent exposure to greenspace – or a lack thereof – has a large impact on our ability to manage depression, anxiety, and stress.

Being in nature can promote the production of important neurochemicals that assist in the regulation of mood. Finding time to get out and immerse yourself in nature, even in small spaces, is a great way to de-stress, re-energize, and re-centre yourself.

Here are some tips for how best to use nature to help fight depression:

1. Find nature and greenspaces

Greenspaces can come in many forms. These include any area in which you can get exposed to natural life in an outdoor environment – think trees, rocks, beaches, water. It’s important to find greenspaces near you that are easy and convenient to get to.

These should also be places that help you relax (maybe a park next to a busy road isn’t best), where you can take a step back and enjoy the environment that surrounds you. Take the time to explore your city or neighbourhood to find the spaces you like most.

Here are some examples of greenspaces you can look for:

  • Parks and trails
  • Forested walking paths
  • Community gardens
  • Ravines, lakes, or ponds

2. Pick some activities to enjoy

While being out in nature, it’s good to double up on other things you can do to help fight stress and depression, by getting in some physical activity, or finding ways to further relax.

  • Taking a slow walk to really look around and enjoy the space
  • Reading a book while breathing fresh air
  • Bird watching
  • Boating or fishing
  • Simply sitting and relaxing

3. Make plans with a friend

Inviting friends or family along with you is another great way to enjoy your time in nature. Getting others involved allows you to spend quality time with those you are close with in a safe and relaxing environment.

This can make the experience more enjoyable and keep you motivated to go consistently. Inviting others also helps you to make a commitment and stick to your plans of going out and being in nature.

4. Be consistent

There is no set amount of time for how often you should spend in nature. However, consistency will give you the most benefits for your body and mind. Try and find a weekly or bi-weekly time to get out into nature.

On days when you’re struggling to find motivation or whenever you feel you need a mental reset, go to your favourite spots to help re-centre yourself and get the ball rolling for the rest of your day.

5. Take the time to enjoy it

Your time spent in greenspaces should be something that helps you refreshed and relaxed. Taking time to be mindful and present is a luxury we’re not always granted, due stresses at work or home or with those around us.

  • Try to disconnect from anything that might heighten your stress or lower your mood – leave your phone in your pocket, or put it away altogether so you don’t have distractions that may take you out of the present moment.
  • Slow down and take some deep breaths.
  • Use your senses to help ground you – what do you smell, what can you hear?

Centring yourself and truly enjoying your time in nature is a great way to take a break from the world around you and reset yourself for any challenges you’re facing.

Written by the HeadsUpGuys Team - Combining lived experience, clinical practice, and research expertise. Reviewed and approved by Dr. John Ogrodniczuk - Professor and Director of the Psychotherapy Program at the Department of Psychiatry, The University of British Columbia.
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