In our fast paced world, stress and anxiety often seem like our constant companions. The demands of work, family, and daily life can take a toll on our mental and emotional wellbeing. Many of us seek comfort in various forms, from meditation and yoga to therapy and medications.
However, there's a simple and natural remedy that's often overlooked but incredibly effective: nature walks. Exploring green spaces, whether it's a nearby park, or a forest trail, can work wonders for our psychological restoration.
The Urban Grind and Mental Fatigue
Modern life feels like a never-ending rush. Our cities are concrete jungles, where we're surrounded by skyscrapers instead of trees, and the noise of traffic drowns out the calming sounds of nature.
It is no surprise that many of us yearn for a way to mentally escape this relentless pace.
The Science Behind Nature's Magic
The whole idea that nature can heal our minds isn’t just talk; it’s got some science behind it. Researchers have delved into the field of ecotherapy, a form of treatment that involves outdoor activities in natural settings. Studies have consistently shown that spending time in green spaces can have a profound impact on our mental health .
One of the key factors behind this phenomenon is the concept of attention restoration theory. According to this theory, urban life demands a lot from our direct attention, the kind of focus required for tasks like work, study, and problem-solving. Over time, this directed attention can become fatigued, leading to mental exhaustion. Nature, on the other hand, allows for what psychologists call “effortless attention”. When we're chilling in the great outdoors, our brains can take a break, wander, and recharge, letting us recover our focus.
My Personal Experience
I've personally experienced the incredible healing effects of spending time in green spaces. A few years back, life had me pinned down under the weight of work and personal responsibilities. I was constantly stressed, and my productivity was sinking to new lows. It was during this time that a friend suggested we go for a leisure hike in Jurong Lake Gardens. Even though I was hesitant, I agreed.
The moment I set foot on that trail, I felt like a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders. The cool breeze, the soothing sounds of the flowing stream, and the clean, fresh air all came together to create an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. With each step along that path, it was as if the stress that had been consuming me was slowly melting away.
We spent the entire day hiking, talking, and connecting in ways that were increasingly rare in our hectic lives. After the hike, I felt re-energized, and more focused than I had been in months. It wasn't just the natural beauty that rejuvenated me; it was the connection with a friend that added an extra layer of healing and restoration to the experience.
The Mind-Body Connection
Nature walks do more than just clear our minds – there's a real mind-body connection going on here. Research has shown that spending time in green spaces can lead to reduced levels of stress hormones like cortisol and lower blood pressure . These physical changes contribute to an overall sense of wellbeing.
Moreover, trees and plants release these natural compounds called phytoncides. Breathing in these substances during a forest walk can enhance our body's ability to fight off illnesses.
Accessible Green Spaces
While it's true that remote natural settings offer a unique experience, even urban green spaces can have a positive impact on mental health.
City parks, community gardens, and tree-lined streets all provide opportunities for connection with nature. In Singapore, there are plenty of accessible green spaces available:
Singapore Botanic Gardens: This UNESCO World Heritage site offers a lush and serene environment with a variety of plants and the beautiful Swan Lake.
East Coast Park: A popular spot for outdoor activities, it has a scenic coastline, cycling tracks, and barbecue areas for a fun day out by the sea.
HortPark: As a gardening hub, it's a great place to learn about plants and gardening while enjoying a peaceful atmosphere.
MacRitchie Reservoir: Ideal for nature lovers, it offers a network of hiking trails around the reservoir, allowing you to immerse yourself in lush greenery.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve: Singapore's highest peak, Bukit Timah Hill, is located here, offering a challenging hike and the chance to spot some unique flora and fauna.
Incorporating Nature into Daily Life
Bringing nature walks into your daily routine doesn't need to be complicated. Start small, like I did, by just taking a leisurely stroll in the nearby park or using your weekends to check out the local trails with your loved ones.
Here’s another tip: when you are out there in the wild (or just your local park) unplug from all those digital gadgets. It's about immersing yourself completely in the natural world, allowing your mind to wander without distractions. So, the next time you're feeling overwhelmed by the demands of life, consider stepping outside and immersing yourself in the beauty of nature. You might just find the peace and restoration you've been searching for, right outside your door!
 Barton, J., & Rogerson, M. (2017). The importance of greenspace for mental health. BJPsych international, 14(4), 79–81. https://doi.org/10.1192/s2056474000002051
 Roe, J. J., Thompson, C. W., Aspinall, P. A., Brewer, M. J., Duff, E. I., Miller, D., Mitchell, R., & Clow, A. (2013). Green space and stress: evidence from cortisol measures in deprived urban communities. International journal of environmental research and public health, 10(9), 4086–4103. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph10094086
About the Writer
Jeannette Qhek is the Wellbeing Lead at Actxa Wellness, where she curates the wellness curriculum with relevant science-backed content. Extremely passionate about the psychology behind human behaviour, she is now pursuing her Master's in Counselling with Monash University. Her other passion is content creation, and she is part of Tiktok's team of Youth for Good Wellness Education. As part of this exciting journey, she created "Chill By Nette", an online wellness space to share her resources and learnings. Through sharing her voice and creativity, she hopes to make psychological concepts and wellness research knowledge more accessible and fun to the public.
Connect more with Jeannette Qhek here ➡️ https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeannetteqhek/