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Spend More time in Nature

By Noirin Mosley and Victor Perton

Last week, with University College Dublin and Jenny Boymal,  we hosted an Hour of Optimism for Mental and Physical Wellbeing.

We shared the habits of an optimist focusing on the habits shared in the animated Habits of an Optimist course and on this website.

Two people messaged us afterwards "that including nature and the natural world would be a good addition as it can be so healing for many people."

And they were right.  We spend so much time in nature we had forgotten to include it as a habit to be honed and improved.   

One of Victor's habits is to walk in first light, capture beautiful colours of the dawn and share it on social media.  Those posts get more reaction than most posts of intellectual substance.

Coincidentally today, writing in Bazaar, Nilgin Yusuf commended "Twenty minutes a day outside has the same effect as an anti-depressant and spending time in nature: gardening, foraging, bird watching or walking, can benefit mental and physical wellbeing. Ecotherapy, a formal treatment involving outdoor activities can help with mild to moderate depression while shinrin-yoku, the Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing’ is a way to destress and awaken the senses."

There's good science and common sense that time spent in the fresh air lifts your mood. Enjoy nature. Garden. Look at flowers.  Walk in the park.  Wade in the shallows.

The discipline is in allotting time every day or several times a week.  Take that weekend in the country.  Walk by the river.  Water the flowers.

Robert Masters, Chair of The Centre for Optimism

"The garden is one of the most restorative environments for mental health, well-being and optimism. From pruning roses to turning over the soil they not only promote natural regrowth, but also that in a person’s sense of well-being and optimism of the mind."

Maurita Moore

"Go open, curious and receptive into Nature... she is waiting for you, to find your way home. Understand that being in Nature, is like being aligned to the truth; there are no world views, no agendas or conditioning, just the centre of all which is whole and healing.

"Being in Nature is about relationship between yourself and Nature, which is an extension of the self - filling all the senses, so, there is less of a distinction between our boundaries. In this immersion, we go back to a non-verbal time when we co-existed with all beings - human, animal and plant, recognising our own spirit and the spirit in all that lives - intrigued by the endless creativity in Nature.

"Connecting to this source is so reassuring, and life-affirming that when you re-engage in your daily activities; you're changed, the dial has shifted - inexplicably, joy and optimism bubbles up."


Fran Sorin

"By now, it’s known that spending time in nature and gardening promotes optimism, generosity, social bonds, helps to mitigate ADHD and obesity, and can have an impact on creativity, concentration, and even academics."

Jill Suttie

"In South Korea, researchers are treating young video game addicts with trips to the forest to help them feel happier, less anxious, and more optimistic."

From "A Q&A with Deepika Chopra, PsyD"

What are some daily practices to increase your optimism?

  • Move to your favorite music: Music and movement are significant ways to increase happiness and optimism. And it’s a great in-the-moment practice: Turn on some music that makes you happy and dance, even if it’s just for thirty seconds.
  • Spend time in nature: Get outside for twenty minutes. That’s it. You don’t even have to be active; you can just sit down in the grass. Contact with nature increases positive mood, and we know that when our mood is increased, our brain also anticipates events more positively.
  • Thank yourself: We’re getting so familiar with the idea of gratitude—it’s one of the most researched concepts in mindfulness. But I rarely see people express thanks for themselves in their gratitude journals. Celebrate your wins, even if they’re super small. Actually, the smaller the better. When we’re celebrating something we’ve achieved, we’re so much more likely to focus on what we want or what good things are up next than on what is not going well.

Kay Clancy

"One of my favourite things is to enjoy a moment of mindfulness while I stand, with my eyes closed, barefoot on the grass or sand. As I focus on my breath I feel myself anchor into the ground below me and I experience the many beautiful sounds and smells of the world around me. As I open my eyes I feel the warmth of optimism wash over me leaving me feeling calm and ready for anything."

David Stannard, The Vision Guy

"In recent days that I had the opportunity to get outside for the sunrise. The world survived overnight and the sun's rays and heat encourage us to start another day with a positive and optimistic outlook. We can do it!  Maybe we just have to let ourselves re-join with nature for a few minutes every morning to let our brains remember what their purpose is?"

Dona Matthews

"Kids are calmer, more optimistic, healthier, more creative, and more successful at school when they spend time outdoors. Spending more time in nature can improve attention, focus, and cognitive achievement. Children who learn in outdoor classrooms show big improvements in academic achievement, self-esteem, problem solving, creativity, and motivation to learn."

Richard Mitchell

"physical activity in natural environments is associated with a reduction in the risk of poor mental health to a greater extent than physical activity in other environments"

Ethan McMahan and David Estes

"A growing body of empirical research suggests that brief contact with natural environments improves emotional well-being."

Cassidy Randall

"Hundreds of studies have linked spending time outside to better health outcomes like decreases in incidences of diabetes and cardio-vascular mortality, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and better immune system function. In fact, these positive effects that are so well-documented that more and more doctors are issuing “nature prescriptions” to help treat a range of conditions from heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes, to chronic stress, depression and anxiety, insomnia and even PTSD."



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