A ‘green prescription’ can make nature boring instead of fun

Spending regular time in nature appears to have strong psychological benefits. As more compelling evidence emerges, doctors are increasingly promoting our mental health by writing down the time between greenery or nearby water.

While those recommendations may help some people, new research suggests that there is a fine line between encouragement and pressure, and a prescriptive prescription makes the experience sour.

Using data from 18,838 participants from 18 countries collected for the BlueHealth International Survey in 2017, the researchers found that outdoor time was associated with many emotional benefits, but only when the choice felt like one’s own.

The findings are consistent with the Self-Determination Theory (SDT), which is the idea that when a person feels pressured to engage in certain activities, it impairs their inner motivation to do something.

“Thus, a visit to nature by friends / family or a green formality by a medical professional may be inadvertently harmful through a ‘green prescription’.

“In the structure of the SDT, the nature of the visitor may change as it is internally enjoyable and entertaining, due to the inner desire to meet the expectations of others.”

This is not to say that doctors should start using verse psychology and advise people. No This could be a better way to get out, but without adding external pressure.

Because if people feel they are failing to live up to someone’s expectations, it can make the drug boring.

In the BlueHealth International Survey, this was found to be the case. The more someone felt the pressure to go out, the more likely they were to leave home. But on the flip side, their visit outside was associated with less pleasure and more discomfort, especially for people with common mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression.

What these results are driving is not yet clear, but the study’s authors believe that it may have less internal motivation – time spent in nature for a purpose. It could also be that less motivated people, who experience fewer benefits from going out of town, are just going to make others happy.

“We need more information about this delicate balance between intrinsic motivation and sometimes essential stimuli from the outside, as well as how nature visits can be integrated into mental health treatments,” says Ann Ozala, a psychologist at Finland’s Natural Resources Institute.

Because there really seem to be advantages; We just need to figure out how to cut the best rewards.

In the survey, participants were generally self-motivated to spend time in nature, and while this was less common in people with anxiety and depression, the researchers found that most people in this group visited nature at least once a week, much to their surprise. As others.

Since this weekly allotted time the volunteers have felt calmer and helped relieve some of their stressful and buzzing thoughts – there are only a few less positive self-reports among people with poor mental health.

“We have no idea that people with depression and anxiety are already using natural settings to relieve symptoms and manage their conditions,” says Matthew White of the University of Exeter and the University of Vienna. “

“Our results provide more clarity about the value of these locations for communities around the world, but they also remind us that nature is not a silver bullet and needs to be carefully coordinated with existing treatment options.”

The idea of ​​‘green care’ or ‘ecotherapy’ has been gaining importance in recent years, but most of the studies so far have been small and rely on self-selected samples.

While growing evidence suggests that spending a few hours a week in nature is good for your health and well-being, potentially improving short-term memory, reducing fatigue, improving your focus, and lowering your blood pressure, it is unclear how these benefits The best way to do that is not the best. Practical way.

Many questions remain unanswered. If we write time in nature for mental health disorder, how do we say advice? How much time will we write? Who will benefit the most? And where do we suggest people to go?

The current findings are unique in that they give us a comprehensive international overview of outdoor leisure time, but psychologists say they are not determined in any way and are only directed as “first research”.

Clearing clinical data will be an important step for future research.

“These findings are consistent with extensive research suggesting that urban natural environments provide space for people to relax and recover from stress,” says Michelle Tester-Jones, a psychiatric psychologist and lead author of the University of Exeter study.

“However, they have also shown that healthcare professionals and loved ones should be sensitive when recommending time in nature for people with health and discomfort. It can help encourage people to spend more time in places that people already enjoy visiting.” So they feel comfortable and can make the most of the experience. “

The study was published in Scientific reports.