Anxiety is a common mental health disorder affecting approximately 3 million people in the UK. It’s commonly treated with antidepressants or therapy, but self-help can be valuable for sufferers, especially when a panic attack strikes out of the blue or if you’re anxious after a stressful event and can’t seem to calm down. One of the ways in which to alleviate anxiety is to step outside into nature. Here’s why it has such a powerful effect on the mind.
It Reminds You To Breathe
Common symptoms of anxiety are feeling breathless and a racing heart. Sometimes the best thing to do during such a panic attack episode is to distract yourself. Going for a walk or hike can therefore be a great way to think about other things – you might, for instance, greet others on their walk or marvel at the beautiful trees. When you’re focused less on what your body’s doing – your racing heart, breathlessness, and sweaty palms – you can override the anxiety.
It Helps You Deal With Stress
Anxiety is often linked to stress. When you’re experiencing overwhelming stress in your job or relationships, it can cause you to feel anxious. Therefore, it makes sense that when you tackle the stress in your life, you can alleviate your levels of anxiety. How can you better deal with stress? By going outside! A study conducted in Scotland found that when scientists measured stress hormones in 25 healthy adults, people who were living near green spaces (such as parks) had lower levels of stress than those who weren’t. Dealing with stress can be as easy as spending time in the garden or creating a herb garden to help you reconnect with nature.
It Gives You More Oxygen
When last did you breathe properly? Breathing exercises are common ways to alleviate feelings of anxiety. One breathing tip is to take a long breath through your nose and hold it while counting to three. Then, exhale slowly through pursed lips while you focus on relaxing muscles in your face, shoulders, and stomach.
Getting more fresh air outside can help you to make such breathing exercises more effective. This is because how much oxygen you have in your brain affects your serotonin or “happy hormone”, which affects your mood. If you have too much serotonin, you’ll feel tense. When you boost your body’s oxygen by taking deep breaths in a calming space, such as in nature, you’ll improve your serotonin levels so that you feel happier.
Nature Boosts Your Social Connections
When you take a walk with your partner or go for a picnic with friends, nature is bringing you closer to your social circle –and this combination of nature and connections can be really good for lowering your anxiety levels.
Research has found that people who are surrounded by nature know more people, experience feelings of unity with neighbours, and are focused on helping others. When you feel connected to others, you also gain support, which is a huge help. You get to talk to others about your feelings of anxiety so that you don’t feel so alone. Besides, since feeling overwhelmed by thoughts and emotions is common in anxiety sufferers, expressing these things in a relaxing natural environment can be a huge weight off your shoulders.
Dealing with anxiety isn’t easy and can bring you lots of stress, but you can take control of it by finding ways to stay calm. One way is to step out into nature on a more regular basis, so that you don’t stay cooped up in your worries and thoughts. Stress relief is a few steps away… in your garden!
By Sally Writes