Many of us instinctively know that time spent in nature is great for both the body and mind, but now a growing body of research is scientifically proving its benefit for depression symptoms, anxiety attacks, and stress relief.
Our ancient ancestors knew the immense healing power of spending time in natural surrounds – the idea of nature as a healer can be found in the earliest documented histories of the ancient healing traditions of Australian aboriginal, valuable time in nature every day.
They knew what science and research are only just beginning to understand – that the healing power of nature can have a marked effect on mental wellbeing. A dose of nature is increasingly recognized as both the cure and prevention of many ailments.
A lack of exposure to natural surrounds, or ‘nature deprivation’, is seen as a cause behind the marked increase of many modern ills, including depression symptoms, anxiety attacks, and behavioral problems in children. According to many researchers, it’s no coincidence that as disconnection from nature has grown dramatically, so have mental disorders such as depression. In fact, city dwellers have a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders when compared to people living closer to nature. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, recognized this when he coined the phrase: “Nature cures—not the physician.”
Depression often goes unseen and undiagnosed. A person with concealed depression is someone who is conditioned to deal with their inner demons in a way that doesn’t make them clearly visible. They may or may not be diagnosed, and this may or may not be something they’ve shared with even their closest companions. The problem is that the world becomes darkest when we all stop being able to understand each other.
They may intentionally make efforts to appear OK and maybe even seem exponentially happy and upbeat.
Depression is more than just a mood. Those who live with depression have learned to alter their apparent moods, and may even be some of the most seemingly “happy” people that you know. Personalities can vary.
They may have habitual remedies.
There are serious ways to treat depression, including therapy and medication. However, in addition to these remedies, there are lifestyle habits that those with depression use to treat their everyday state-of-mind. This can be in the form of music, exercise, driving, walks, or basically, anything they know can get themselves out of a sinking set of emotions. Concealed depression has a lot to do with the ways people try to personally conquer their own demons.
They may have trouble with abandonment.
They can be pros at “cover-up” stories.
They may have abnormal sleeping and eating habits.
They may understand substances differently.
They may exhibit a very involved perception of life and death.
They are often uniquely talented and expressive.
They are often searching for a purpose.
They at some times will release subtle cries for help.
They seek love and acceptance, as every person does.
Shielding the world from one’s personal demons is not done so for the sake of dishonesty. People who live with depression in a private and undisclosed way do so for protection. This is for the protection of their hearts. This is for the protection of the people around them. This is for the protection of the success of their dreams. Some of those reading this may have felt an eerie connection to these habits. Whether you have been treated for depression, or you simply have treated yourself, you know how easy it is to feel alone. I entitled this article about those with unseen depression, but the truth is that most depression goes unseen by our human nature. We live in a world that encourages us to hide what is dark and unpleasant. We don’t have to.
The most important habit and motivation of those with unseen depression to understand are that they search for love and acceptance. We all do. The only way to gain it is to spread it. Never turn away from a person who seems to be struggling. Love when it’s difficult. Cry when you need to. Reach out when someone closes the door. Open your heart, even if it feels terrifying to do so. If we keep forcing the bad to go unseen, the goodwill also go unseen.
There are many studies that show that time spent outdoors can:
- improve stress levels
- alleviate or lessen symptoms of depression
- reduce anxiety
- lower blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension
- lower production of stress hormones such as cortisol.
One study compared a 50-minute walk in a city environment to a nature walk. The nature walk showed many more benefits above exercise, including decreased activity in an area of the brain linked to the risk of mental illness such as depression. Nature walks have also been found to reduce rumination, the sort of negative thoughts that you return to over and over (like picking at a mental scab), which will be very familiar to anyone with anxiety! It also helps with reasoning and memory, so in fact, it can make you smarter!
With this knowledge, doctors around the world are increasingly prescribing trips to the park for a range of conditions, including anxiety and depression, stress, attention deficit disorder, and chronic illness such as diabetes and high blood pressure. In some countries, “exposure to nature” is now used as a core component of therapy.
The great news is that it’s easy to get yourself a dose of the good stuff mother nature provides. You can:
- Pack a backpack and head for the hills
- Prepare a picnic basket and visit a local park
- Go walking on the beach
- Organize a camping trip with your mates
- Walk the dog in some nice natural surrounds
- Lie on the grass and watch the clouds float by
- Take up gardening or sit quietly in your garden.
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