Nature Therapy For Mental Well-Being

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Spending time in nature can be helpful for both physical and mental health. Even taking a few minutes for a walk around the block in the rain to get natural light and fresh air can boost your mood and create a positive impact on your life. In some cases, prioritizing time outdoors in natural areas, such as woodlands, beaches, and parks, can even alleviate depression symptoms. 

Still, it may be best to combine time in nature with other treatment options, such as therapy, for the best results. If traditional face-to-face therapy isn’t available, you may consider trying online therapy instead.

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Nature can help you heal - so can therapy

The relationship between nature and well-being

Based on ongoing scientific research, there may be a link between exposure to nature in everyday life and decreased symptoms of depression. Attention restoration theory suggests that exposure to the natural environment can help improve mental health problems by promoting positive emotions and reducing mental distress. Spending time in nature or even watching nature documentaries may promote positive social interactions and have positive effects on focus.

While it’s true that nature can look vastly different depending on where you live, its mental benefits tend to remain the same. Green spaces, such as urban parks, community gardens, and even indoor plant areas, provide opportunities for physical activity, cognitive benefits, and nature connectedness. In addition, blue spaces, such as beaches, rivers, and other aquatic environments, may improve mental and physical well-being.

One study consistently found that taking frequent walks or being exposed to natural environments can lead to improved mood and decreased symptoms in people with clinical depression. Another study that examined the link between nature and mental health found that adults with more parks in their neighborhoods tend to be at a reduced risk for depression than those with fewer parks in their area. 

Time and time again, research shows that nature and good mental health tend to go hand in hand. While adding nature into your daily routine can prove to be challenging in our modern age, there can be many ways to do so. 

Implementing nature into your self-care routine

The level of nature therapy you are exposed to daily tends to vary depending on where you live. Still, city folk and lovers of the indoors can reap the mental health benefits of nature therapy in several ways. Adding time in the natural world to your self-care routine can look different based on your lifestyle and physical abilities.

Here are some of the ways you can incorporate more nature into your day-to-day life:
  • Taking walks in parks or nature-rich areas
  • Walking or biking to work
  • Working outdoors
  • Reading outdoors
  • Sunbathing
  • Gardening 
  • Participating in outdoor sports or outdoor exercise
  • Placing plants (real or synthetic) in your home
  • Utilizing rain or ocean sounds (real or recorded) for relaxation

You may also enjoy utilizing nature-themed meditations, such as “The Rain of Self Compassion” by Tara Brach.

While many of these methods might seem simple, their overarching benefits are often irrefutable. While science continues to study the link between nature and well-being, there are a number of factors that may help us understand why nature therapy can be so beneficial to mental health. 

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How nature therapy can improve mental health

While the relationship between humans and nature can be quite complex, the “why” behind its many mental health benefits is often quite simple. Spending more time in nature (nature therapy) tends to result in increased physical activity and sunlight exposure. 

Increased physical activity may contribute to higher-quality sleep, improved nutrition, and overall physical health and well-being. In regard to the treatment of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, improvement in these three areas is typically referred to as lifestyle-based intervention. Lifestyle-based intervention can often work along with other forms of therapy and medication to improve or reduce symptoms. 

Exposure to sunlight can play a role by providing a source of vitamin D and aiding in the production of serotonin. Serotonin, often referred to as the “happy hormone,” can be a vital hormone that often plays a role in controlling mood. One study even found that exposure to sunlight could reduce the length of hospitalization for patients diagnosed with bipolar depression. 

Quality counts

While there can be several ways to implement nature into your daily routine, people residing in urban areas are typically less likely to spend time in a natural environment due to a lack of availability. An article published by the United Kingdom Mental Health Foundation explains the potential barriers to nature therapy for certain groups, such as women, younger people, and people living with disabilities. 

There are a number of ongoing initiatives that aim to promote more green space in urban areas. Urban environments with natural spaces may help promote stress reduction, improve mental illness symptoms, and foster subjective well-being. Those living in large cities and urban environments without green spaces may still benefit from traveling to natural environments, such as beaches, rivers, or woodland spaces, when possible. 

Climate change is another potential issue that can pose a threat to natural environments. Building and preserving natural spaces are essential for maintaining the healing powers of nature.

Healing properties

Even though a large number of nature’s benefits usually come directly from exposure to sunlight, rain can be a comforting and healing source for many. The word “pluviophile” generally refers to someone who finds peace and joy in the presence of rainfall. 

Along with serving as a highly necessary resource, the sound of steadily falling rain can produce a calming effect. The sound of rain can aid in concentration, relaxation, and falling asleep. If you are someone who loves the rain, embracing the sensory benefits of rain can positively affect your mood, just as other aspects of nature do. 

While you may not want to go outdoors when there are inches of rain piling up, or in the case of acid rain, there is no harm in experiencing the joy of nature while being in light rain. In fact, being outside during the rain can even offer the opportunity to experience a rain meditation: as you feel the water droplets fall on and around you, tune into each of your senses and enjoy the present moment. 

Nature can help you heal - so can therapy

Benefits of online therapy 

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses, it may help to contact a therapist or licensed professional. Though exposure to nature has been shown to reduce symptoms of certain mental illnesses, it is typically most helpful when accompanied by treatment from a professional.

An online therapist may help guide you in the implementation of nature into your self-care routine. Additionally, online therapy can offer a location-flexible option, making it possible to conduct therapy sessions in your favorite nature-rich environments or while traveling. 

Aside from exposure to nature, research has found that online therapy can effectively reduce symptoms of certain mental illnesses. Additionally, online therapy can be as effective as face-to-face therapy regarding treatment. 


When it comes down to it, nature may be essential not only to living but to mental health as well. Something as simple as adding a walk outside into your daily routine can help you stay mentally and physically healthy. Visiting your favorite park, beach, or woodland area may even lead to reduced symptoms of depression. Spending time in nature, rain or shine, can provide the opportunity to get out of our inner world and experience the wonder of the world around us. But while nature can help immensely, it is often beneficial to reap its benefits in tandem with additional treatment, such as guidance from a therapist or mental health professional. You may connect with a licensed therapist in person or online.

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