Growing evidence shows that access to the natural environment improves health and well-being, as well as preventing disease and helping people recover from illness.
Experiencing nature in an outdoor environment can help tackle mental health problems, obesity, and coronary heart disease.
A belief that contact with nature reduces stress and benefits humans can be found in the earliest documented histories of China, Greece and Persia.
Since the early 1980s, environmental psychologists have studied the health effects of contact with nature and concluded that humans depend on nature not simply for material requirements – such as water, food and shelter – but also for emotional, psychological and spiritual needs.
The range of psychological benefits for people who visit green, open spaces is vast. They include:
- a place to escape to away from school/university or workplace
- changes of scenery
- improvements in mood
- lower levels of anxiety
- lower stress levels
- lower levels of depression
- increased physical activity.
People with anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances or home or work-related stress have reported that involvement in outdoor activities contributes towards understanding ways to cope and mastering the burdens, crises and challenges of everyday life.
Participating in health-promoting outdoor group activities such as hiking, physical activities, and gardening have been shown to have a range of benefits to health and well-being.