Sunday, October 6th marks the beginning of Mental Illness Awareness Week 2019 across the United States, during which the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) and other psychological support organizations come together to spread awareness and fight the stigma that remains enveloped in the conversation surrounding mental illness. Despite their prevalence – 1 in 5 adults will experience mental illness in this year alone – mental health conditions are often minimized and treated with less urgency than physical illness. This has allowed intentional self-harm to become the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the 2nd most common cause among college students.
Nature exposure has long been correlated to improved mental wellbeing and physical health, able to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. A growing body of evidence implicates that greater exposure to or contact with natural environments can greatly benefit populations in high-income, largely urbanized societies, while merely living in a greener neighborhood has the potential to better health outcomes. Living in greener areas has been correlated to decreased risks of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and mental distress, as well as increased longevity and improved self-reported health.
In the past few years, the connection between the brain, gut, and microbiome has become an increasingly examined topic in the medical research community. As more research continues to prove this bidirectional link, there is a growing awareness of the importance of gut health not just for gastrointestinal health but also for overall physical and mental wellbeing. Studies of the connection between the gut and physical health have revealed the powerful effects of the microbiome on the immune system, mood, energy levels, and a range of other bodily aspects.