Nature and health

I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between nature and health, i.e., about the benefits of regular contact with natural spaces for physical and psychological health.

I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression problems. I’ve also been directly affected by environmental pollution. Strengthening an emotional bond with nature, and doing it through a tool like iNaturalist, has been helpful.

So, I’ve been inspired to talk about mental disorders. I recognize that this topic can still be misunderstood and even stigmatized.

For this reason, I want to mention the need to talk about it and highlight the importance of the connection with nature and its relationship with physical and mental well-being.

Although all this can be a double-edged sword, witnessing environmental deterioration has also come to overwhelm and depress me.

I’m sure there’s a lot to say and do about it, and it’s becoming more and more necessary.


Look up “nature deficit disorder”. It’s a commonly discussed thing with a lot written about it, ranging from academically rigorous to bogus nonsense and everything in between.

Nature-deficit disorder is the idea that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors than they have in the past, and the belief that this change results in a wide range of behavioral problems.

Google Scholar results


Plus here


Really appreciate this prompt, as it’s at the forefront of my experiences with nature and iNat as well!

I have ADHD and OCD and have also struggled in recent years with situational depression (as opposed to chronic). I’ve always known that spending time out in nature can help me relax, clear my head, and feel emotionally and physically better, but my issues with motivation and executive function can make it really hard to actually do it consistently. Discovering iNat has been hugely helpful in that regard! It provides structure and direction to outdoors time, as well as the dopamine hits of successfully capturing an observation. It feels like a rare example of non-exploitative gamification (that also has tangible real-world benefits). For my ADHD brain, it’s been a fantastic motivator for outdoors time, making even sitting on my front stoop feel purposeful.

Beyond the motivation aspect, I’ve also really appreciated how iNat encourages me to slow down, pay very close attention to the details of my surroundings, and find wonder and beauty in them. It’s similar in some ways to therapeutic grounding techniques. OCD is essentially an anxiety disorder, so cultivating those habits has been beneficial to me. The other day, for example, I didn’t have the wherewithal to walk anywhere beyond the lawn outside my apartment, so I decided to examine the old maple tree out front in detail. To my surprise I found several types of moss and lichen I had never noticed before! That small exercise of grounding myself in the details of a familiar object worked wonders.

Anyway, those are some of my specific experiences with nature (and iNat!) improving my mental health, even outside the general benefits of contact with nature cited by some of the other folks in this thread. I don’t know where I’d be without it.


I’ve noticed this is posted in the Spanish section of the forum, while the thread is in English. Perhaps it should be moved? @tiwane

Regarding to the topic I would suggest to read Peter H Kahn, jr on his purposed topic of environmental amnesia.

I wrote a piece in Spanish about the subject, available on FARN’s IAF 2019:


We have mental illness. Going into nature and participating with inat helps us learn to focus/be mindful, find something to be interested in, get some quiet time away from people (usually), get some exercise. We tried growing plants to attract wildlife to our yard. Second year of drought has resulted in many shriveled plants. This makes us very sad and upset. We are relieved that our municipality has converted many parks and random parcels into prairie.


Did I already offer you this for prairie? I have been following him since his first very tentative steps to a nursery / landscaping service / prairie rehab.

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This is new. Thanks.

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Even as some try to legislate ever more exact distinctions between pets and service animals, others are coming to realise and assert that all pets are emotional support animals.


I definitely find something mentally invigorating and revitalizing about going out and observing nature. If I don’t do for several weeks, I definitely start feeling like something important is missing in my life.

However, after any outing longer than 2 hours, irrespective of difficulty, I always end up needing a nap. I’m not sure if it’s from focusing, heat/sunshine, poor sleep hygiene, age, or something else. At least, that’s what I’ve noticed, regarding physical health.


I’m an expert on biodiversity conservation, and I wrote a review article about values of biodiversity in 1995 for an environmental encyclopedia. It included an entire section on “Psychological and Therapeutic Values”. I have many extra copies if u want me to mail a copy to you. Then, you could use the references I included for that section and go to Google Scholar & look them up to see what else has been published on this topic since 1995.

I have been studying therapeutic values of nature since 1975, when I began investigating how “wilderness users” (back-country trekkers v. disabled people who visit parks in vehicles) value nature. The topic has expanded WAY BEYOND surveys of attitudes of “wilderness users”. When I published my 1st book (The Value of Conserving Genetic Resources), there was not much on the topic back in 1979-80 (it was at GPO in galleys by 1981, but that book wasn’t published until 1984).

Just sayin’ - there’s a ton of research that has emerged on this topic since 1990. I think you would find it both interesting and reassuring to check some of it out. It was my depression (due to being in Stage 4 CKD at age 20) that led to my wilderness experiences. They have ‘kept me sane’ until this day (I’m now 72!).

You can email me at: to give me ur address if u want a copy of my review article on biod values! - M.O. (Marge Oldfield)


Thank you all very much for sharing your experiences, for literature. I have been reading, learning, feeling identified. It is a topic that, at least in my immediate environment (town, even country), is not much discussed, although it should. The experiences shared here are among the first that I know.

I’ve always been surrounded by nature, and I’ve always had an emotional bond with it, although due to anxiety and depression linked to other factors, I had moments of apathy, and it was difficult to reconnect due to solastalgia.

Between the comings and goings of people disconnected from nature, it was difficult for me to identify with someone. However, here at iNat I have found many avid naturalists. That helps me take the first step, nature does the rest.

I am learning a lot, and I have made other people, unrelated, become interested in nature. That makes me happy.


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