Spending regular time in nature comes with strong psychological benefits. As more compelling evidence rolls in, doctors are increasingly setting out time in the middle of greenery or water to promote our mental health.
While those recommendations may help some people, new research suggests that there is a fine line between encouragement and pressure, and a formal prescription can lead to a loss of experience.
Using data from 18,838 participants from 18 countries collected for the Blueheld International Survey in 2017, researchers found that outdoor time was associated with multiple emotional benefits, but only when the choice felt like an individual.
The findings are consistent with self-determination theory (SDT), which is the idea that when a person feels pressured to engage in certain activities, it can weaken their intrinsic motivation to do something.
“Thus, feeling pressured by friends / family to travel to nature, or being more formalized by a ‘green prescription’ from a medical professional, may be unintentionally harmful,” the author writes.
“In the framework of SDT, visiting nature can lead to a change because it is intrinsically enjoyable and fun, touring because of an intrinsic desire to meet the expectations of others.”
This is not to say that doctors should start using reverse psychology and advise people No This may be a better way to guide out, but without adding external pressure.
Because if people feel that they are not meeting the expectations of others, then it can turn medicine into a work.
The case came up in the Blueheld International Survey. The more someone felt pressured to go outside, the more likely they were to leave the house. But on the other hand, their journey was associated with less happiness and more anxiety, especially for those with common mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression.
It is still unclear what drives these results, but the study’s authors feel that this may have to do with less intrinsic motivation – time spent in nature for the sake of nature. It may also be that less motivated people, who experience less benefit from going out, go out only to please others.
Psychologist Ann Ojala of the Institute of Natural Resources Finland says, “We need more information about this delicate balance between intrinsic motivation and sometimes necessary encouragement from outside, as well as how nature’s journeys to mental health treatment Can be integrated. ”
Because there actually appear benefits; We just need to figure out how to get the best award.
In the survey, participants were generally self-motivated to spend time in nature, and while this was less to do with anxiety and depression, researchers were able to encourage most people in this group to visit nature at least once a week. Were quite surprised, the same amount as others.
This weekly allotted time made the volunteers feel calm and helped relieve some of their more stressful and romantic thoughts – which are only less positive self-reports among people with poor mental health.
Matthew White of the University of Exeter and the University of Vienna says, “We had no idea that people with depression and anxiety already use natural settings to help reduce symptoms and manage their conditions Was doing.”
“Our results provide even more clarity about the value of these places for communities around the world, but also remind that nature is no silver bullet and needs to be carefully integrated with existing treatment options . “
The idea of ’green care’ or ‘ecotherapy’ has been gaining momentum in recent years, but most studies so far are small and rely on self-selected samples.
Increasing evidence suggests that spending a few hours a week in nature is good for your health and well-being, possibly improving short-term memory, reducing fatigue, focusing on you, and lowering your blood pressure, it is clear Not how best to use these benefits is the practical way.
There are still many questions that remain to be answered. If we schedule time in nature for mental health disorders, how do we provide advice? How much time do we set? Who will benefit the most? And where do we suggest people to go?
The current findings are unique in the sense that they give us a broad international overview of outdoor leisure time, but psychologists state that they are by no means certain and only as “first exploration”.
Clear clinical data will be an important step for future research.
According to the study of cognitive psychologist and lead author Michelle Tester-Jones of the University of Exeter, “These findings are consistent with extensive research suggesting that the urban natural environment provides a place for people to relax and recover from stress.”
“However, they also demonstrate that health practitioners and loved ones should be sensitive when recommending time in nature to those who have depression and anxiety. This is helpful in encouraging them to spend more time in places People who already enjoy; so they feel comfortable and can make the most of the experience. “
The study was published in Scientific report.