"There’s just one way to radically change your behavior: radically change your environment."
—Dr. B.J. Fogg, Director of Stanford Persuasive Lab (Psychology Today)
Contrary to what we would want to believe, we are more dependent on external cues.
When asked about what they've learned in Environmental Psychology, the students' most common response is the realization of how important the environment is and how little most of us consider modifying our surroundings to boost our well-being.
As 2023 draws to an end and we all start to contemplate our New Year's plans for 2024, it would do us well to take some time to thoroughly assess our surroundings and consider whether changing them could be a more valuable goal than we might believe.
Studies have been conducted on the many advantages of unthreatening natural environments (i.e. no bears). The benefits of spending time in nature are so numerous that an entire semester in an Environmental Psychology class could be devoted to discussing them.
These benefits include enhanced emotional states, better cognition, pro-environmental behavior, helping behavior, decreased aggression and crime, increased physical and mental health, greater connections to others and the physical environment, more thoughts about others, less rumination, and much more.
And yet, on average, we don't spend a lot of time in nature. In fact, the majority of our time is spent indoors! This suggests that we might be underestimating the impact of spending time in nature on our wellbeing. Indeed, certain studies have demonstrated precisely this (Nisbet & Zelenski, 2011). But this isn't the whole story.
Most people have a strong sense that they can benefit from nature in one way or another. Further evidence that we're not totally clueless comes from the fact that we prefer green spaces over urban ones and that this preference has a direct impact on our mood (Meidenbauer et al., 2020).
Contact JarvisHypnotherapy to help you with issues related to how your environment is impacting your mental health.
Also read: How to Optimize Garden Design for Well-Being
It's also possible that individual differences and inclinations matter in that people who feel more connected to nature go out of their way to interact with it, and as a result, they could be more mindful of the benefits it brings.
This suggests that we are inclined to understand the significance of our environment and that spending time in nature is good for us (although some of us are more likely to notice this than others). Yet, we don't usually make altering our immediate environment—like growing plants or taking walks in natural spaces—a priority. Additionally, we hardly ever take a stroll in a park without our smartphones.
There are currently two main difficulties according to recent study on these issues. One noteworthy example is that certain people have limited access to nature because of where they live, which might include things like limited access to green spaces or severe weather that makes spending time outdoors challenging.
Also read: Is Urban Living Bad for Your Mental Health?
On the one hand, many of us have access to nature but make no use of it. It's safe to claim, and many other scientists concur, that it is very difficult to resist the pull of other ways to have recreation and pass our free time, such as media and endlessly entertaining gadgets, even if we have some vague sense that it is not healthy for us.
What then should we do?
First of all, don't be hard on yourself for not giving your environment more thought before. Our modern world is one in which we are more and more plugged into our electronics and less and less connected to the natural world.
However, can you think of any ways to add more natural elements to your house or workspace, or items that make you happy (such artwork or photographs)? Can you commit to trying to spend at least an hour a week outdoors, ideally without a phone, to see if you can gain a better grasp of how it affects you?
I believe the underlying insight we are missing is that we can benefit from even small modifications to our environment or momentary exposure to restorative environments. We don't need to go on a wilderness getaway to find some peace and calm.
Furthermore, these experiences are probably going to get better with time. By being more mindful of the ways in which the natural environment impacts us and by spending more time in restorative spaces, we can transform into happier, healthier versions of ourselves. A minor change and a worthy resolution for 2024!
Read related: Want to Change Your Habits? Change Your Environment
Need to make some modifications in your environment? Get started on the path to change with the help of experts from JarvisHypnotherapy.
Plus, here are more insights on wellness from JarvisHypnotherapy: Why Healthy Relationships are Crucial for Men's Overall Well-being.