7 Quick Ways to Use Nature to Help Treat Anxiety
Did you know that you can use nature to treat anxiety? But what if you can't get to a beach or national forest? Don't worry, anxiety relief is closer than you think--it can be right in your backyard. Find out how the outdoors can soothe and how you can use nature to treat anxiety daily.
We don't always know when anxiety symptoms might be triggered. And sometimes they lurk in the background of our everyday lives and so we need everyday coping skills and activities to get rid of anxiety. There are some simple ways to treat anxiety triggers and symptoms with nature without taking a vacation.
Let me ask you, how often does anxiety sneak up on you when you're in your garden? Does it sneak up on you when you’re taking a walk? It’s possible you’ve felt anxious or had a panic attack in nature. But unless you have a specific fear that involves the outdoors, I’d bet that anxiety is more likely to grab your attention indoors.
How Time in Nature Treats Anxiety
A couple of months ago, I had my first panic attack in many years. In my effort to catch my breath, I scrambled to the porch and sat down to apply a technique called tapping. After a few moments, my attention was drawn to the sound of rain and the stillness of the night. Nature rooted me in the present and before long I felt calmer.
There is growing research suggesting that nature can have a powerful impact on our brains and bodies. In fact, time in nature has shown to decrease activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for ruminating.1 That's something sensitive introverts like me need.
You may have experienced the profound effect nature can have on your mental health. But if you’re like me, you also might live in a large, flat city where mountains and large forests are scarce. Or you may struggle to make time for outdoor activity.
While I encourage everyone to set aside time for the benefits of exploring nature and outdoor activities to truly have the time to recharge, there are many quick, easy ways to connect with nature that just take a couple of minutes when our time is limited.
Simple Ideas to Enjoy Nature to Treat Anxiety
- For one week, every time you step outside, look up at the sky. Notice it and take it in for 20-30 seconds.
- Go outside and breathe in fully and notice the qualities of the fresh air. Is it cold? Warm? Dry? Humid?
- Step outside with bare feet on the grass or dirt. Feel grounded and connected.
- Hug a tree. You can do it in the privacy of your yard if you wish. This might sound funny, but ask the tree to support you in grounding.
- Pause for one minute as you walk to your car to feel the sun, cold wind, or rain on your skin.
- Take time to listen past the cars and sirens. Check in with the birds and the rustling of leaves.
- If you’re a parent, there are countless opportunities to get curious with your child. Why not pause and observe how ants work or play in some sand together?
Any step you can take throughout the day to connect yourself to your sensory experiences is helpful in preventing and relieving anxiety. That's how nature can help treat anxiety.
What are the quick ways you connect with nature to treat anxiety?
1 This Is Your Brain on Nature. (2017, June 07). Retrieved August 18, 2017.
Renzi, M. (2017, September 6). 7 Quick Ways to Use Nature to Help Treat Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2017/09/7-quick-ways-to-use-nature-to-treat-anxiety
Author: Melissa Renzi
Thank you for your comment, Lizanne! I apologize for the delayed response, but I was hiking in nature in Spain! But yes, you've got it. A few days into my trek I realized that despite a lot of physical pain, I absolutely felt no anxiety... I think because I was in the mountains and moving my body!
This is a perfect example of one of those amazing moments that physically makes you stop -- "Nature rooted me in the present and before long I felt calmer." Proof that nature really is an incredible tool, if we only just take a moment to stop and listen. I love your simple ideas for getting out and utilizing nature. I feel like nature is constantly calling to us trying to say, "hey! I'm here and I want to help. Look at all I'm offering/doing!" Everything from the way a breeze catches your hair, to watching how shadows dance and sun rays light things up. If we only take a moment to look around us, the literal grounding result is incredibly soothing. Lovely read.