The World Health Organisation reports that depression is a global pandemic. The latest figures indicate some 280 million people carry depression worldwide.
The number of people that fell into depression during the global pandemic rose by 42%. That’s unlikely to subside with the subsequent rise in living costs together with uncertainty around the economy and job prospects.
Moreover, the medical profession is struggling to find effective treatments for depression. Antidepressants that target serotonin have failed – leading researchers to conclude that a drop in serotonin is not the cause of depression.
In contrast, a walk in the park has been found to improve people’s moods and help them to feel less stressed. Doctors in Scotland have started prescribing patients with “Green Health” nature-based treatments.
Patients diagnosed with clinical depression said their mood improved following a 90-minute walk in nature. Respondents reported feeling calmer and less depressed.
Studies in Nature
A growing number of studies is showing that Mother Nature has healing powers. The research for the natural healing power of nature is so overwhelming that researchers in at study performed at the University of Minnesota conclude:
“Nature deprivation, a lack of time in the natural world, largely due to hours spent in front of TV or computer screens, has been associated, unsurprisingly, with depression.”
Since the introduction of social media and high-definition screens between 2005-2017, the number of depressed teens has increased by 52%. Is there a correlation here?
On the flip side, ecotherapy has shown that nature can have positive effects on mental health disorders. Mind.org in the UK confirms that spending time in nature has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
The American Psychological Association also notes:
“From a stroll through a city park to a day spent hiking in the wilderness, exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation.”
Why Walking in Nature Is An Antidote To Depression
There’s something magical about nature that helps us feel connected. Studies in neuroscience show mood sensors in the brain light when we’re in nature – or simply looking at images of the natural world.
What’s more, walking is now recognised as an activity that has a number of health benefits. It’s becoming increasingly popular with the general population and is also being recognised as a treatment for stress-related illnesses.
Healing in nature is not new. Ancient civilisations were using the natural world to treat psychological illness as far back as recorded history.
Since the 1970s, ecotherapy programs have encouraged participants to embrace nature to help alleviate the symptoms of depression.
Walking gives the body and mind an extra boost, in that exercise releases endorphins – neurotransmitters that are known for enhancing mood. Combined with nature, walking gives you a double dose of Mother Nature’s medicine.
If you’re suffering from depression, taking regular walks in nature can help you to alleviate the feelings of running on empty.