As it turns out, there are significant mental health benefits to be gained from connecting with the Earth. If you have ADHD, it’s almost like a cheat code for grounding yourself when you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed. While it’s no magic elixir for these troubles, it can help you fast track your way to a calmer state and provide a simple and accessible way to be in the moment. But how does it work, and what’s the best way to do it? Learn more about the mental health benefits of being in nature and how it might help you manage your ADHD.

How Nature Affects Your Health

Nature can impact our minds and bodies in a number of ways. Being active outdoors is typically good for one’s physical health, but it goes deeper than that. Here are some of the ways nature has been found to have a profound effect on humans:

  • Nature boosts physical wellness: Researchers have found that being in nature can help to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce cortisol levels, and increase vitamin D levels.
  • Nature soothes pain: Exposure to nature can help increase tolerance for pain. In studies, hospital patients with nature views or plants in their room tend to cope better with pain and return home sooner.
  • Nature makes us happier: Studies have found that contact with nature can boost happiness levels, decrease mental distress, and even provide a sense of meaning and purpose.

While many of us are out and about at various points during the day, we may not be engaging in activities that you would think of as spending time “in nature.” You don’t have to be in a vast forest or laying on a tranquil beach to enjoy the benefits mentioned above, but going on a walk in a relatively quiet area of your neighborhood rather than on a busy city street can make a difference. In one study, walking on a nature path was associated with lower levels of rumination (dwelling on negative feelings or thoughts) compared to walking through a city. When possible, try to spend more time in natural settings to experience the most benefits of being outdoors.

Can Spending in Nature Help with ADHD?

There are several ways in which time spent outdoors can help someone manage their ADHD. Some of the ways that being in nature positively impacts an individual’s physical and mental health have the potential to alleviate lifestyle challenges that often accompany ADHD. Studies have found a number of benefits connected to nature exposure, including:

  • Improved cognitive function and brain activity: Someone with ADHD who may have trouble with cognitive issues like focus, impulsivity, and executive dysfunction.
  • Better sleep quality: Sleep issues are fairly common with ADHD, which can have ripple effects like irritability, mental fog, and mood swings.
  • Decreased anxiety: Anxiety is the most common comorbidity associated with ADHD, and it has the potential to worsen ADHD symptoms.
  • Increased impulse control: Impulsivity can be a major element of ADHD because the area of the brain which controls response inhibition works differently.

These benefits are good for anyone’s mental health. But because they affect areas in which people with ADHD tend to struggle more significantly, it’s very important to consider the potential advantages of spending time in nature as part of an overall ADHD treatment strategy.

7 Tips for Connecting with Nature

If you’re curious about how the benefits of being in nature could potentially improve your mental health and ADHD management, look for easy and accessible ways to connect with the Earth in your everyday life. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  1. Look out your window: Spend more time near windows in your home or office which look out onto trees and other natural elements. Even just seeing nature through a window can help produce positive effects.
  2. Focus on your senses: When you’re out in nature, try to slow down and appreciate the sensory experience you’re having. Note what you see, hear, smell, and touch each time you go for a walk or sit on the grass.
  3. Appreciate the big and small: Don’t wait for an immersive experience outdoors like going camping to experience nature. Take time to appreciate smaller encounters with the Earth, like seeing flowers and trees in your neighborhood or hanging a bird feeder in your yard.
  4. Bring the outdoors in: Get a few indoor plants for your home and learn how to take care of them. These little pieces of nature can help to reduce stress, increase feelings of well-being, and even improve indoor air quality.
  5. Start a garden: Nurturing plants in a home garden is a great way to connect with nature on a daily basis. It can also serve as a way to relieve stress, be physically active, and connect socially with others.
  6. Do routine activities outdoors: Try to incorporate time outdoors into your everyday routine. Eat some of your meals or read a book on a porch or patio. Hang laundry outside rather than using the dryer. Do an at-home exercise routine in the backyard. These small changes add up to a lot more time spent in nature.
  7. Take up a new hobby: Are all of your hobbies done indoors? Try something that requires you to be outside, like biking, kayaking, hiking, fishing, geocaching, birdwatching, or nature photography. If you end up liking it, you’ll find yourself connecting with the Earth on a more frequent basis.