Mood disorders are on the rise. Nearly 20% of people deal with some level of anxiety, depression or chronic stress. Getting professional help is essential if these issues are severe and medication is sometimes necessary, but there are natural deterrents to mood disorders as well.
It is widely known that interaction with the natural world can have measurable positive effects on mental health. There is even an entire scientific field, called ecotherapy, which is dedicated to studying it. Although the exact reasons why natural settings are good for mental health are not fully understood, it is known that being in nature lowers stress hormones in the body and increases serotonin levels. Serotonin is a hormone in the body that regulates mood and is the target of many anti-anxiety and depression medications.
With science supporting the therapeutic effects of nature, it is worth looking into ways to increase contact with the natural world in order to harness its calming effects.
Get Some Sun
If solar panels on the roof can power our entire home, is it any surprise that the sun can power our brain as well? Seasonal affective disorder - with the appropriate acronym of SAD - is depression brought on directly through lack of sunlight. It is thought that both the body and the mind need sunlight to activate the production of hormones and chemicals in the brain that create positive moods.
Even when you can't get outside for an activity, it is important to get some sunlight on your face for a few minutes each day. Sitting by a window while you have your morning cup of coffee is a simple habit that anyone can adopt. Consider taking your work or tasks outside. You can get those projects done just as well sitting in the yard as in the house.
When the weather or the season makes sunlight scarce, you might want to think about getting a sun lamp. You won't get the benefit of vitamin D production that natural sunlight offers, but a sun lamp will work in a pinch to stimulate stress-reducing hormones and serotonin.
Spend Time With Nature
If you can spend as little as 20 minutes outside just a couple of times a week you will reap the benefits of nature's calming power. If you have access to a nature trail or a local park, immersing yourself in a natural setting is ideal. If not, there are plenty of other ways to spend time with nature.
Starting a garden is a wonderful way to spend time outdoors and to bring natural products into your home. Even a small patio can support a container garden of fresh herbs. When the weather permits, perhaps you could choose to eat your meals outside. If you absolutely need to be productive to get yourself out in the fresh air, spread your outdoor chores like washing the car or weeding the flower beds throughout the week to give yourself multiple opportunities to be outside.
Bring the Outdoors In
Amazingly, even the suggestion of being out in nature can have the same positive effects as actually being there. So even when you cannot get out, there are ways to bring nature to you.
Listening to the sounds of nature have an almost instant effect on mood and stress levels. Especially the sounds of water seem to be calming to many people. Surround yourself with potted and hanging plants. They will simulate the effects of nature while also cleaning the air in your home. Even simply hanging nature posters on the walls, putting a natural scene on your screen saver, or streaming nature videos on the TV can offer measurable boosts in feelings of calm and happiness.
If you are experiencing stress, overwhelm, anxiety or depression, exposing yourself to natural environments is a scientifically proven way to help improve your mood. Nature therapy is free of charge, easily accessible and can be a powerful tool in a total plan to combat mood disorders.
This article was kindly written and contributed by Lewis Robinson.