Studies have shown that a deteriorating environment, and the increase in extreme events such as climate change, are proven to have detrimental impacts on our mental health. Let’s take the time to remind ourselves of the importance of caring for the environment and its relationship on mental well-being!
Nature offers us a wide variety of benefits for our mental health. The Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Inger Andersen, once said “The full health benefits of the natural world are too extensive to list,” and emphasized that “nature is the ultimate healthcare system”.
It has been found that spending time in nature helps individuals who suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. In recent years, research on a new form of therapy called “ecotherapy” (a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature) has found that it can help with mild to moderate depression.
However, there now exists a number of threats to our natural environment such as air pollution, wildfires, and global warming, to name a few. The effects of these environmental threats are strongly linked to our mental well-being. For instance, a study published in Psychiatry Research revealed that air pollution poses a threat to our mental health, adding that children are three or four times more susceptible to have depression at 18 if they were exposed to dirtier air at age 12.
To fight the dangers the environment is now facing, governments and communities are now raising the alarm and have begun investing in green infrastructure and alternatives. The United Nations, for example, has now made it a goal to provide universal access to safe, inclusive, and accessible green and public spaces by 2030.
But how can we, as individuals, act? First, we must make nature a priority. We can all take little steps in protecting the environment, such as preventing littering, volunteering in clean-up drives, donating to plant trees, consciously choosing the greener alternative (such as walking or riding a bike, instead of driving), and even growing our own plants at home! The impact of a simple plant in a room can significantly reduce stress and anxiety as found by research carried out in schools, hospitals, and offices.
We must remember that nature heals, helps us cope with pain, restores our mood, and helps us connect with others and the outside world. Now, let’s take a moment to reflect on how much we have deprived ourselves from nature, and begin our journey on caring for the environment – and, ultimately, caring for our mental health.
American Psychological Association. (2020). Nurtured by nature. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature
Mind. (2021). How can nature benefit my mental health? Retrieved from: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/nature-and-mental-health/how-nature-benefits-mental-health/
Oluwatimilehin, A. (2021). How Caring for the Environment Helps to Care for your Mental Health. Retrieved from: https://theplanetcalls.com/how-caring-for-the-environment-helps-to-care-for-your-mental-health/
United Nations Environment Programme. (2019). Caring for the environment helps to care for your mental health. Retrieved from: https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/caring-environment-helps-care-your-mental-health