Spending regular time in nature seems to have powerful psychological benefits. As more convincing evidence emerges, doctors increasingly prescribe time outside in the middle of trees or near water to enhance our mental health.
While those recommendations may help some people, new research suggests there’s a small line between incentive and pressure, and a formal prescription can spoil the experience.
Using data from 18,838 participants in 18 countries collected for the 2017 BlueHealth International Survey, researchers found that time spent outdoors is associated with a number of mental benefits. But only if the choices are like one’s own.
This finding is consistent with the theory of self-determination (SDT), which is the idea that when someone feels pressure to participate in certain activities, it can undermine their intrinsic motivation. to do something.
“Hence, feeling pressured to visit nature with friends / family, or more formally, ̵6;green prescription’ from a health professional, can be unintentionally detrimental,” writes the authors. .
“Within the framework of SDT, there may be a shift from visiting nature because of its exciting and fun nature to sightseeing because of the inner desire to meet the expectations of others.”
This does not mean that doctors should start using reverse psychology and advise people Not Go out, but maybe there is a better way to come up with this guide without causing extra pressure from the outside.
Because if people feel like they are not meeting other people’s expectations, it can turn medicine into a chore.
In the BlueHealth International Survey, this seems to be the case. The more pressured someone feels to go outside, the more likely they are to leave the house. But on the other hand, their visit outdoors was associated with less joy and more anxiety, especially for people with common mental health disorders like anxiety or depression.
It is not clear what led to these results, but the study authors suggested that it may be related to less intrinsic motivation – time in nature for the sake of nature. It may also be that sedentary people, who receive little benefit from being outdoors, tend to go out just to please others.
Psychologist Ann Ojala from the Finnish Resources Institute said: “We need more information about the delicate balance between internal dynamics and sometimes external incentives, as well as how Nature visit can be integrated with mental health treatment ”.
Because there actually seem to be benefits; we just need to find ways to reap the best rewards.
In the survey, participants were generally motivated to spend time in nature, and although the number was lower in people suffering from anxiety and depression, researchers were quite surprised to see. Most people in this group visit nature at least once a week, in the same amount as everyone else.
This allotted weekly time made the volunteers feel calm and helped release some of their more stressful and thoughtful thoughts – only less positive self-reports at people with poor mental health.
Mathew White from the University of Exeter and the University of Vienna said: “We don’t know how people with depression and anxiety use their natural environment to help alleviate their symptoms and manage their condition. .
“Our results provide even more clarity about the value of these sites to communities around the world, but also remind us that nature is not a silver bullet and needs to be integrated. be careful with the existing treatment options. “
The idea of ’green care’ or ‘eco-therapy’ has been successful in recent years, but most studies to date have been small and based on electives.
Although there is growing evidence that spending just a few hours per week in nature is good for your health and wellbeing, has the potential to improve short-term memory, reduce fatigue, improve concentration and Lower your blood pressure, but it’s still unclear how best to exploit these benefits in One Way.
There are still many questions to be answered. If we were to set time in nature for mental health disorders, how would we give advice? How much time do we specify? Who will benefit the most? And we suggest people to go?
The current findings are unique in that they provide us with an international overview of outdoor leisure time, but psychologists say they are by no means definitive and are only meaningful. is the “first discovery”.
Clinical data will clearly be an important step for future research.
“These findings are consistent with broader research showing that the urban natural environment provides space for,” said cognitive psychologist and lead author of the study Michelle Tester-Jones from the University of Exeter. people relax and recover from stress.
“However, they also prove that health care physicians and loved ones should be sensitive when recommending time in nature for people with depression and anxiety. It would be helpful to encourage them. Spend more time in places people have been to before; so they feel comfortable and can make the most of the experience. “
Research is published in Scientific reports.