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Nurtured by Nature

How much time do you spend staring at a screen each day? For most Americans, that number clocks in at more than 10 hours, according to a 2016 Nielsen Total Audience Report. Our increasing reliance on technology, combined with a global trend toward urban living, means many of us are spending less time outdoors.

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.

“There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human well­being,” says Lisa Nisbet, PhD, a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. “You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature. And the sense of connection you have with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.”

Cognitive Benefits

Spending time in nature can act as a balm for our busy brains. Green spaces near schools promote cognitive development in children, and green views near children’s homes promote self-control behaviors. Adults assigned to public housing units in neighborhoods with more green space showed better attentional functioning than those assigned to units with less access to natural environments. Experiments have also found that being exposed to natural environments improves working memory, cognitive flexibility, and attentional control, while exposure to urban environments is linked to attention deficits (Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 28, No. 5, 2019).

Experimental findings show how impressive nature’s healing powers can be–just a few moments of green can perk up a tired brain. Australian researchers asked students to engage in a dull, attention-draining task in which they pressed a computer key when certain numbers flashed on a screen. Students who looked out at a flowering green roof for 40 seconds midway through the task made significantly fewer mistakes than students who paused for 40 seconds to gaze at a concrete rooftop (Lee, K.E., et al., Journal of Environmental Psychology, Vol. 42, No. 1, 2015).

Nature and Happiness

“While such laboratory experiments are intriguing, they don’t fully capture the diverse benefits that go hand in hand with time spent in the outdoor world,” says Cynthia Frantz, PhD, a professor of psychology and environmental studies at Oberlin College in Ohio. “Spending time in nature has cognitive benefits, but it also has emotional and existential benefits that go beyond just being able to solve arithmetic problems more quickly.”

In a review of the research, Gregory Bratman, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Washington, and colleagues shared evidence that contact with nature is associated with increases in happiness, subjective well-being, positive affect, positive social interactions, and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as decreases in mental distress (Science Advances, Vol. 5, No. 7, 2019).

Weir, K. (2020, April 1). Nurtured by Nature. Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved April 24, 2023, from

Your Health and the Environment

Environmental health is the relationship between your health and your habitat. Good environmental health fosters healthy and safe communities and promotes better health and well-being for the people living in them. Environmental health focuses on many different areas including food safety, air quality, climate, and chemical exposure. Regardless of where you work or live, there are lots of great ways to get involved with environmental wellness. Here are some simple strategies for improving your environmental health:

  1. Make your home healthier. Look around your home and become aware of potentially harmful substances such as cleaning chemicals. Consider clearing them out to keep you and your family healthy.
  2. Reduce your allergies. Airborne substances like pollen can flare up allergies. Wash your bedding regularly to reduce dust, vacuum your floors, give your pet a bath, or try an over-the-counter medication to alleviate your allergy symptoms.
  3. Learn about air pollution. Avoid outdoor activities if you know that air pollution is higher on a certain day. Consider getting an air purifier for your home to reduce dust, smoke, and other pollutants in the home.
  4. Practice food safety steps. Make sure that you always use clean utensils and surfaces, separate raw foods, cook foods to the right temperature, and store food properly to keep germs from spreading.
  5. Living sustainably. You may consider things like taking public transportation instead of driving to reduce emissions, using less water and electricity in your home, or using recycled products to help keep the environment healthy.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022, July 21). Environmental Wellness Toolkit. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved March 7, 2023, from

– Mental Health Moment –
Environmental Factors That
Impact Mental Health

Our environment plays a large role in the context of our lives, so it is important to understand whether the impact on our mental health is positive or negative. Here are some things to look for when understanding how you can improve your relationship between the environment and your mental health.

  • Hazardous working conditions can refer not just to physical danger, but any work environment that puts significant strain on the body or mind. If you’re overly stressed at work, your mental health can suffer. Consider talking with your manager about your stress level to see what can be done to reduce it. Use resources like your workplace EAP for additional assistance.
  • Sleep deprivation is considered one of the root causes of depression. If you find that noisy neighbors, busy roads, or uncomfortable temperatures are keeping you awake, ask around for suggestions on how to neutralize these factors. You may consider utilizing technology or medication to help you sleep.
  • Lack of social support can come from the environment due to where you live. Feeling alone is never good for your mental health. Try new activities to make new friends, get to know your coworkers, or connect with people online to start-up a new social circle.
  • Untidy spaces may make you anxious instinctively. Humans are programmed to have a degree of anxiety with untidy spaces due to a potential health hazard. Take some time to clean up your work desk, living room, or other spaces that you spend a lot of time in to reduce stress and anxiety.

While there are many other environmental factors that can impact your mental health, it is important to manage the ones that you can control. If you find yourself overly stressed, anxious, or depressed, talk with your healthcare provider to see what options are available to help.


This is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. For further information, please consult a medical professional. © 2007, 2010, 2013-2023 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.