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The Positive Effects of Nature on Our Mental Health

Long and irregular working hours, job insecurity, poor diet, physical strain, mental gymnastics, and sleepless nights are a perfect recipe for fatigue, stress, and eventual burnout.

Talking therapy can be expensive and difficult to access. If you are a member of a Union and are open to counselling, the Union Benefits page lists counselling service per union. For many people in the film and entertainment industry however, some of the common strategies for improving mental health are not feasible.

But nature is a free, easily accessible, and evidence-based intervention that can reduce stress significantly and inspire and motivate you all at the same time.

Of course, going on long hikes through mountainous terrain or kayaking on wild currents are great ways to connect with nature and reap the positive effects. But you may not have time for that while balancing work, family, and other commitments.

The great news is that you can experience the benefits of nature without even leaving the house or by just going on a short walk!

So, let’s look at what science says about how nature can improve your productivity, concentration, and creativity.

Nature on the Brain

Here’s a summary of some of the research showing the benefits of nature:

  • Nature replenishes cognitive resources, which allows us to be more present, concentrate for longer, and be more productive

  • Looking at pictures of nature and tending to houseplants can reduce stress, increase life satisfaction, and renew cognitive resources

  • When we connect with nature, we experience more positive emotions and fewer negative emotions like anxiety and sadness

  • A one-hour walk in nature decreases the activity of the amygdala (the fight/flight response), which is overactive when we’re stressed and burnt out

  • Spending time in nature reduces rumination (overthinking and destructive thoughts about the self) and improves the ability to control emotions by decreasing the activity of the amygdala

  • Sunshine helps in the production of serotonin (the “happy hormone”) and melatonin (sleep hormone). See our post on sunshine and mental health here.

Taken together these findings show that nature can protect our mental health by calming down the fight/flight response, reducing stress, replenishing our cognitive resources, and increasing the experience of positive emotions.

But how does she do it?

Whether we’re on a six-day work week, or working on your side projects, our attention is constantly being pulled in a million directions. It takes a lot of mental effort to decide what to pay attention to and what to ignore – it’s like a cognitive tug of war and it’s exhausting.

Our cognitive resources are limited so when we’re working a lot, not sleeping enough, and have a lot on our mind, we experience fatigue and stress.

In a natural environment, we mostly direct our attention rather than our attention being seized by things in the environment. This allows our brain to have a break and restores our resources.

Nature also inspires awe (meaning amazement and respect), which has been found to increase well-being and life satisfaction, reduce materialism and the desire for money, and make us feel more connected to people and the world.

Lastly, humans have always depended on nature to survive, and we have an innate desire to connect with it because of our evolutionary history. So being in nature feels good because we are nature and we’re deeply bonded with it. Nature gives us a sense of meaning and it has always been the greatest inspiration for writers, artists, and thinkers.

Ideas for Connecting With Nature

Of course, spending as much time outdoors as possible is the most effective way to experience the benefits of nature. But you can also start by just going on a one-hour walk in nature whenever you get a moment or when you are feeling stressed.

When you’re outside, be mindful of what you’re doing: pay attention to the smells and sights, touch leaves and trees, lie in the grass, and listen to all the beautiful sounds.

Here are also a few things you can do that don’t require you to leave the house but that can still have a calming effect and inspire awe:

​Filling your house and/ or office with houseplants (and tending to them regularly!)

Planting something and watching it grow

Hanging pictures of nature on the walls

Looking at nature documentaries and videos

Listening to nature sounds e.g., ocean waves


Anderson, C.L., Monroy, M. & Keltner, D. (2018). Awe in nature heals: Evidence from military veterans, at-risk youth, and college students. Emotion, 18 (8), 1195-1202.

Berto, R. (2005). Exposure to restorative environments helps restore attentional capacity. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 25 (3), 249-259.

Bratman, G. N., Daily, G.C., Levy, B. J. & Gross, J. J. (2015). The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning, 138, 41-50.

Gordon, A.M., Stellar, J.E., Anderson, C.L., McNeil, G.D., Loew, D. & Keltner, D. (2017). The dark side of the sublime: Distinguishing a threat-based variant of awe. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113 (2), 310-328.

Smith, J. (2014). The special role of nature in the recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder: a theoretical inquiry. California Institute of Integral Studies

Sudimac, S., Sale, V., & Kühn, S. (2022). How nature nurtures: Amygdala activity decreases as the result of a one-hour walk in nature.

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