Nature and Mental Health, by Tamsin Embleton

‘I’ve always treated [national parts] as sacred spaces. Places where I can find the solitude I need to listen to the voices within’

Reuben Wu (Ladytron, photographer)

Returning to that first point, spending time in nature isn’t just a pleasant contrast to tour buses and venues, it has numerous mental health benefits, too. Some studies have shown that time in nature reduces aggressive behaviour. It also gives access to ‘positive awe’, which can be grounding, inspiring and give life meaning through a sense of connectedness with nature. As ‘forest bathing’ gathers popularity, BBC’s Autumnwatch explain the perks of a 15 mins stroll in nature: 

  1. Breathing-in phytoncides. Phytoncides are antimicrobial organic compounds released by pine trees. They decrease your blood pressure and lower your pulse. Research has shown that phytoncides also reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, increase immunity, are anti-inflammatory, improve sleep and may have other benefits, too. 
  2. Fractal patterns are a repetitive geometric motif found in leaves, snowflakes, shells, waves. They have been found to stimulate the same areas of the brain as when you listen to music, inducing a wakefully relaxed state and boosting creativity.
  3. Mycobacterium Vaccae – a harmless microorganism found in soil has been found to emotional health. This microbiome activates neurons involved in the immune response, is anti-inflammatory and increases serotonin availability (thereby reducing anxiety). 
  4. Water – the sound of running water decreases cortisol production, and stimulates the parasympathetic or ‘rest and digest’ branch of the nervous system which helps us to feel relaxed.
  5. Birdsong that is quiet, high pitched or melodic can induce a stress-relieving affect. 


1. Wu, R., 2022. itsreuben. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 April 2022].

2. The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ involves quietly soaking up the atmosphere in a leisurely visit to a forest. It’s calming and stress-reducing. Don’t worry, you can keep your kit on!

3. Mitchell, E., 2020. Autumnwatch, 2020, episode 3, 5 simple ways: Nature can help your mood. Autumnwatch. Available at: [Accessed January 15, 2022].

4. Li, Q., 2009. Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 15(1), pp.9–17.

5. Memon, A. et al., 2021. Anti-inflammatory effect of phytoncide in an animal model of gastrointestinal inflammation. Molecules, 26(7), p.1895.

6. Woo, J. & Lee, C.J., 2020. Sleep-enhancing effects of phytoncide via behavioral, electrophysiological, and molecular modeling approaches. Experimental Neurobiology, 29(2), pp.120–129.

7. And also Jackson Pollock’s paintings.

8. Williams, F. & Aeon, 2017. Why fractals are so soothing. The Atlantic. Available at: [Accessed January 16, 2022].

9. Visit Chapter 12 to learn about serotonin and depression.

10. Anon, 2018. Study linking beneficial bacteria to mental health makes top 10 list for Brain Research. CU Boulder Today. Available at: [Accessed January 16, 2022].