The Incredible Mental Health Benefits of Nature Walks

As a kid, I spent a lot of time outdoors. Sometimes, I walked for miles with friends on curiosity trips. I loved it. Today, I’m still curious about life outdoors. I take a nature walk almost every day.

It’s a solitude walk ritual. I spend at least half an hour among trees. I use a nature reserve near me with beautiful scenery. I do this on purpose. It’s a conscious daily habit I intend to practice for as long as I can. Fresh air and movement are a great way to clear my head.

It’s doing wonders for my mood and happiness.

A growing body of epidemiological evidence indicates that greater exposure to, or ‘contact with’, natural environments (such as parks, woodlands and beaches) is associated with better health and well-being,” writes Scientific reports.

Nature helps me see myself more clearly, my problems in perspective, and my potential for spiritual growth. I spend time in nature to relax and introspect, tap into my subconscious and reset my mind, body and spirit. I’ve made spending time in nature a regular part of my life.

Nature is a great teacher. So many lessons are hidden in the flow of life. But I want to focus on attachment (our connection to the world around us and detachment (the value of letting go to flow easily in life).

I’ve learned a lot from many cultures in the last few years about the value of spending time outdoors. And most importantly making it an experience to find meaning, happiness and satisfaction.

In Norway, they call spending time outdoors “friluftsliv.”

“Being outdoors is a natural way of living in Norway,” says the secretary general of Norsk Friluftsliv (a collection of 500 outdoor clubs). “It’s a very important part of what we call the good life,” she told The Guardian writer Rachel Dixon.

In Japan, many people use “shinrin yoku,” (spending quiet time amongst trees) to find inner peace and calm. “If you’ve ever been in a forest, listened to the birds and watched the sunshine filtering through the leaves, you’ve already participated in one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental well-being,” says Japan National Tourism Organization.

You can practice forest bathing in your own way. It doesn’t have to be a big forest to benefit from it. You can spend time at your local nature park, follow a hiking trail, or even spend more time in your garden.

Find a green space that resonates with you and make it a regular routine. The important thing is to notice the details around you. Spend time in nature “can be as simple as walking in any natural environment and consciously connecting with what’s around you,” writes National Geographic.

Nature is a powerful tool I use to practice attachment and detachment — a seemingly paradoxical idea, right?

I want to share how I benefit from both.

An attachment perspective

Nature has always been a path to a more grounded, present, and peaceful way of being. The more I connect with nature, the deeper my appreciation for its beauty.

Nature forces me to be more present. When I’m outdoors in the wild, I become more aware of my breath, body, and the sights, sounds, and smells around me. The heightened awareness deepens my connection to the present moment.

It’s a spiritual experience. I don’t just walk. I notice the different types of trees, textures of leaves, how sunlight penetrates the leaves and how other living creatures interact in nature. I let go of mental chatter or worries and focus entirely on the moment.

My attachment to nature is an experience that improves my spiritual growth. Nature has a calming effect I intend to use for as long as possible.

Nature also teaches the art of simplicity.

You can enjoy experiences, human connection, and the quiet beauty of the natural world. Less clutter, both physical and mental, leads to a more fulfilling existence. For a simpler life, I identify what truly matters in my relationships and work — and focus your energy there.

Albert Einstein was right when he said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Nature is also a lesson in slow living. Philosopher and writer Lao Tzu was right when he said, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

A mighty oak takes time to deepen roots, a seed takes time to grow, and a river creates its path patiently. Instant gratification, growth, or mastery don’t work. Learn to appreciate the flow of your life and the slow, steady progress towards what you want.

Detach for a better hold

We all form attachments — to loved ones, experiences, and possessions. But life, like nature, is ever-changing. I’ve learned to accept what is. People move on or change, jobs end, plans fall through, and things break.

Clinging too tightly to anything, even the beauty of nature can lead to suffering, frustration and disappointment. I find inner peace by learning to let go of what I can’t control.

I’m very mindful of things I hold too close to myself. It doesn’t mean I’m refusing to feel. It means I’m aware of “what is” or the realities of the flow of life. I’m allowing myself and others the freedom to be. Every experience or activity doesn’t serve as the only divine purpose in my life.

I like how spiritual teacher and co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society at Barre Sharon Salzberg explains it: “Detachment is not about refusing to feel or not caring or turning away from those you love. Detachment is profoundly honest, grounded firmly in the truth of what is.”

By all means, love the people close to you, enjoy their presence and cherish the experiences you share with them. But be mindful of what you expect from them and how they influence the direction of your life.

Nature teaches a great lesson on change. It teaches us to let go of the need to control and accept the cycles of life and death. Flowers bloom and wilt, seasons change, rivers flow endlessly. It’s a beautiful cycle of beginnings and endings.

What’s the bigger lesson?

Witnessing the cycle of nature can help you loosen your grip on impermanent things — possessions, achievements, and even relationships.

Nature thrives on its own terms, a genius process that has survived a great deal of time. “Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity,” naturalist and essayist Henry David Thoreau said.

True fulfilment comes from connection and experience. Attachment to things that change only leads to misery and disappointment. “To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment,” says social psychologist and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm.

When I feel overwhelmed by daily stress, I step outside and go for a walk. Everything around me puts my problems in perspective. I remind myself that most of my worries are fleeting and that true peace comes from letting go.

Key takeaway? Nature doesn’t ask you to choose between attachment and detachment. It shows you how they can coexist. You can feel a deep love for someone or something while understanding its inevitable change.

It’s a balancing act that leads to a life of peace, acceptance, and connection to the world around you. I will always enjoy the great outdoors and let nature be my teacher.

Nature grounds me, and reminds me to breathe and take things one step at a time. I’m grateful, thankful and appreciative of nature.

Categorized as Life