How Does the Environment Affect Your Mental Health? Many factors in life, directly and indirectly, affect our mental health. Some known influences include genetics, physical health, and lifestyle. One of the biggest external factors that impact our wellbeing, though, is our surrounding environment. This includes both the natural and human-made environments that you live in.
The environment we’re surrounded by on a consistent basis undeniably affects our physical and psychological development, as well as our behaviors. Here are some ways your environment may be influencing your mental health – and what you can do to make sure it contributes to your wellness, not your stress.
Getting Back to Our Roots
Americans are nearly four and a half times more likely to live in urban versus rural areas. If you spend most of your waking hours living an urban lifestyle, then most of your day is probably spent within the walls of a man-made structure, both at home and at work.
But the human body, mind, and even its soul weren’t designed to live in concrete jungles, disconnected from nature. Today, scientific studies prove that people who live in cities are more likely to experience higher and more frequent amounts of stress. This in turn leads to an increased risk for mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression disorders.
What’s more, studies also prove the opposite: that spending time in nature has a multitude of clear positive effects on our physical, mental, and spiritual health.
To truly thrive, we must get back to our roots: we must return to nature. That doesn’t mean you should just quit your job and move to the countryside – that isn’t a realistic option or permanent solution for a lot of us. What it does mean, though, is that we must consciously incorporate nature into our lives, and even our daily routines.
Be Nurtured and Empowered by Nature
Today, more than ever before, we pack as many things as possible into every waking hour. We are busy, overworked, and under-rested – often by our own doing!
The result of this busy lifestyle is an overactive nervous system that’s semi-permanently in fight-or-flight mode. And that can lead to chronic stress and the numerous harmful symptoms that come with it.
Connecting with the earth helps us reconnect with our own senses and power in the most fundamental ways, by simply making us slow down and breathe. On a deeper level, nature can actually help alleviate our built-up, internalized stress and can actively heal our minds and bodies.
John Muir said it best: “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.”
Connect With Nature Every Day
Being mentally well requires us to consciously devote time in our busy schedules to be with nature. Besides going on regular trips into remote natural spaces, with just a little creativity and commitment you can still harness nature’s healing capacities on a more consistent basis.
Here are eight easy tips for adding more nature into your daily life:
- Take advantage of public green spaces in your city and visit parks and trails during your lunch break or after work. We like to call these “nature breaks.”
- Plant a flower or vegetable garden. Even if you live in an apartment, you can grow a succulent garden, container garden, balcony garden or keep it simple with window flower boxes.
- Try to have daily physical contact with the earth by walking barefoot or lying in the grass.
- Take a nap in a hammock or on a blanket outside. Letting some sunshine hit you adds the benefit of soaking in some vitamin D.
- Try to spend your downtime indoors by windows with natural lighting, or invest in light bulbs that mimic full-spectrum sunlight.
- Take your workout outdoors! Being outside will heighten your senses, lower your blood pressure, and actually help you perform better.
- Let your spirit marvel at the vastness of nature by going star or cloud gazing. Going for even a short hike will allow you to experience more spatial awareness.
- Practice the observer’s mind anytime you’re outdoors by activating your senses and curiosity: notice the color of the leaves, smell the flowers, and touch the plants and trees.
Discover Natural Healing in Sedona
Nature is an essential component of all of our treatment programs at The Sanctuary at Sedona. Your experience at The Sanctuary will be one of full immersion: drinking clean water, breathing fresh air, and eating organic foods in homemade meals. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to be alone and reflect while surrounded by nature’s healing energies. This helps you reset in the deepest, most primal parts of your being.
Our secluded desert setting in Sedona is intentionally designed to remove external distractions, getting you out of your head and back into the physical realm. At The Sanctuary, you’ll rediscover your connections with nature on a much deeper level and open yourself to learning from the wisdom of the earth.
As Albert Einstein said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
Contact us to learn how we can help you fundamentally improve your mental health.
He is the Founder, Administrator, Counselor at the Sanctuary at Sedona. He has a BA in Political Science and is currently Senior teaching staff at Four Winds Society, an international school of energy medicine. His credentials also include being an Ordained Minister; a Certified Shamanic Breathwork® Facilitator; a Founding Member Society for Shamanic Practitioners; a Member of Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology; a Member of the National Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies. [email protected]
He is the Founder, Administrator, Counselor at the Sanctuary at Sedona.
He has a BA in Political Science and is currently Senior teaching staff at Four Winds Society, an international school of energy medicine. His credentials also include being an Ordained Minister; a Certified Shamanic Breathwork® Facilitator; a Founding Member Society for Shamanic Practitioners; a Member of Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology; a Member of the National Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies. [email protected]