“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

Various studies have aimed to investigate the effects exposure to natural settings has on depression and other mental health issues. Personally, I find it calming and uplifting to get out into nature, even if just for a day hike. Luckily, being in Perth, Western Australia, there are a plethora of trails, hikes and nature spaces all within a short travelling distance.

So, because we had a bit of a break in the weather, 26 degrees down from the usual 35 degrees, the family decided to head back out to nature for a day trip on the Bibbulmun Track. The track runs from Perth to Albany Western Australia, but has numerous sections suitable for day hikes, or overnight trips. For more information, check out https://www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au/.

Today’s section was an 18km “there and back again” trip from the Brookton Highway to the Canning hut; the Bibbulmun has a series of huts set up for those walking through, including huts, “long drop” toilets and basic fire/cooking facilities. The start of the section is marked, with plenty of room for parking your vehicles off to the side of the Brookton Highway.

This section contains a lot of elevation and declination, with a variety of surfaces including rock, pea gravel and soft sand. Suitable footwear, as well as food and water is a necessity. A basic first aid kit is also recommended; better safe than sorry. Soft tissue injuries are a possibility, and in summer, snakes are prevalent.

About four kilometres in you will find Abyssinia Rock, a large black, rocky outcrop. In hot weather, you will find various lizard species sunning themselves on the rocks

I always feel refreshed after a walk through nature; here’s the science behind it.

In a 1991 study by Ulrich et al, controlled laboratory studies demonstrated beneficial psychological and stress/physiological impacts of nature images and sounds. Further, Cross-sectional and longitudinal research has found that the psychological well-being of a population can be associated, in part, with its proximity to green space, blue space (i.e., aquatic and marine environments), and street trees or private gardens in both urban (Dadvand et al, 2016) and rural areas (Alcock et al, 2015).

In longitudinal studies, as well as natural and controlled experiments, nature experience has been shown to positively affect various aspects of cognitive function (Wells, 2000) memory and attention (Berman et al, 2012), impulse inhibition (Taylor et al, 2002, and children’s school performance (Dadvand et al, 2015), as well as imagination and creativity (Khan & Kellert, 2002).

Nature experience has been associated with improved sleep (Grigsby-Toussaint et al, 2015) and reductions in stress, as assessed by self-report and various physiological measures and biomarkers of acute and chronic stress (Hartig et al, 2003). These impacts on sleep and stress may entail decreased risk for mental illness, as sleep problems and stress are major risk factors for mental illness, especially depression (Hammen, 2005). In addition, there is growing evidence that nature experience is associated with a decreased incidence of other disorders including anxiety disorders (de Vries et al 2016), attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Roe & Aspinall, 2011), and depression (Beyer et al 2014).

Next time you get the chance, get out to nature, whether it be the local park or a nice long hike in a national park or state forest. Just might do you the world of good.

R. Ulrich, R. Simon, B. Losito, E. Fiorito, M. Miles, M. Zelson, Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. J. Environ. Psychol. 11, 201–230 (1991)

P. Dadvand, X. Bartoll, X. Basagaña, A. Dalmau-Bueno, D. Martinez, A. Ambros, M. Cirach, M. Triguero-Mas, M. Gascon, C. Borrell, M. J. Nieuwenhuijsen, Green spaces and general health: Roles of mental health status, social support, and physical activity. Environ. Int. 91, 161–167 (2016)

I. Alcock, M. P. White, R. Lovell, S. L. Higgins, N. J. Osborne, K. Husk, B. W. Wheeler, What accounts for ‘England’s green and pleasant land’? A panel data analysis of mental health and land cover types in rural England. Landsc. Urban Plan. 142, 38–46 (2015)

N. M. Wells, At home with nature: Effects of “greenness” on children’s cognitive functioning. Environ. Behav. 32, 775–795 (2000)

M. G. Berman, E. Kross, K. M. Krpan, M. K. Askren, A. Burson, P. J. Deldin, S. Kaplan, L. Sherdell, I. H. Gotlib, J. Jonides, Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. J. Affect. Disord. 140, 300–305 (2012).

A. F. Taylor, F. E. Kuo, W. C. Sullivan, Views of nature and self-discipline: Evidence from inner city children. J. Environ. Psychol. 22, 49–63 (2002)

P. Dadvand, M. J. Nieuwenhuijsen, M. Esnaola, J. Forns, X. Basagaña, M. Alvarez-Pedrerol, I. Rivas, M. López-Vicente, M. De Castro Pascual, J. Su, M. Jerrett, X. Querol, J. Sunyer, Green spaces and cognitive development in primary schoolchildren. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 112, 7937–7942 (2015).

P.H. Kahn Jr., S.R. Kellert, Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations (MIT Press, 2002)

D.S.Grigsby-Toussaint, K.N.Turi, M.Krupa, N.J.Williams, S.R.Pandi-Perumal, G.Jean-Louis, Sleep insufficiency andthenatural environment: Results fromtheUS Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. Prev. Med.78, 78–84 (2015)

T.Hartig, G.W.Evans, L.Jamner, D.Davis, T.Gärling, Tracking restoration innatural andurban field settings. J.Environ. Psychol.23, 109–123 (2003)

C.Hammen, Stress anddepression. Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol.1, 293–319 (2005).

S.deVries, M.tenHave, S.vanDorsselaer, M.vanWezep, T.Hermans, R.deGraaf, Local availability ofgreen andblue space andprevalence ofcommon mental disorders intheNetherlands. BJPsych. Open2, 366–372 (2016)

J.Roe, P.Aspinall, The restorative outcomes offorest school andconventional school inyoung people withgood andpoor behaviour. Urban For. Urban Green.10, 205–212 (2011)

K.M.M.Beyer, A.Kaltenbach, A.Szabo, S.Bogar, F.J.Nieto, K.M.Malecki, Exposure toneighborhood green space andmental health: Evidence fromtheSurvey oftheHealth ofWisconsin. Int. J.Environ. Res. Public Health11, 3453–3472 (2014)

Published by holistichealthhack

40 year old father of three Full-time worker Part-time student

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: