Here at Trinity Teen, we bring girls into a different setting from what most of them are used to. Whatever their troubled pasts, we find that there’s a renewal that happens when girls get out into the big, open, wild lands of Wyoming. Stresses of their old lives melt away. They stop worrying so much about small things which they now realize are comparatively unimportant. Their eyes are opened to wonder, which reminds them that they are young and that there’s a world of possibility before them.
In this environment, we are often able to bring healing, new perspective, and new purpose to our clients. Some of that can be attributed to a change of scene, our clinical programs, and our excellent staff members. However, some of it is simply the healing power of the great outdoors. The mental health benefits of nature are well-researched and documented. Here are some of the most interesting findings:
In one study, it was found that something as simple as seeing images of peaceful, natural scenery lowered stress levels in the body. When people are actually brought into those areas, and allowed to walk outside in green spaces, the effects are even more powerful. One famous study had subjects take a 30 minute walk in a green park by the river, while another group of subjects took their walk on a city street. After their walks, the green-park group showed significantly lower rates of physiological stress.
Decreased Risk of Depression
In a similar study, something interesting was found about the thought patterns of people who go walking in nature. The section of the brain associated with rumination (something that often goes into overdrive in patients prone to depression) was less active. Researchers hypothesize that this is because nature provides “positive distractions” and “soft fascination.” Instead of taking a city’s approach of snatching our attention in a disjointed cacophony, or rejecting our sense of beauty with hard lines and functional concrete, nature eases us into observance of patterns, views, smells, and sounds that are restorative.
Enhanced Cognition, Memory, and Creativity
Did you know that greenery can have such a powerful effect on our minds that even office spaces with indoor plants have been shown to be more efficient, positive, and creative? During the same “walking in nature” studies, subjects were given memory tests and puzzles before and after to test mental state and ability. It should come as no surprise to you by now that those who walked in green spaces did better on creative thinking, memory, and reasoning.
More and more, our modern world pulls us away from green spaces and dominates our time, attention, and energy with technology and urban scenes instead. Judging from the conclusions of these scientific studies, the steep rise in mental illness that has occurred over the last few decades could be closely related to the trend. What could being outdoors more often do for you and your family?