Time in nature promotes teen mental well-being

Dr Asha Pemberton
Dr Asha Pemberton

Dr Asha Pemberton


As we continue to unravel the many emerging impacts of the pandemic on adolescents and their overall health, arising research is again confirming that outdoor activities and time in nature are powerful tools to achieving stress reduction. In addition, new data also highlights the mental health implications of the periods of restriction which can guide possible solutions for young people and their families.

We enjoy and often forget the lush and beautiful landscapes of our islands. Our mostly sunny days, tropical breezes, pristine waters and green mountainsides provide more than ample opportunity for young people to engage in nature, perform physical activity and importantly indulge in the mental respite that nature provides. These noted, how many of our youth intentionally spend time in nature? Is this a part of planned family activities? How can this help their overall well-being?

In a survey conducted from April 30 to June 15, 2020, the researchers asked 624 children and teenagers ages ten to 18 years to report their participation in outdoor recreation both before the pandemic and after social distancing measures went into effect across the US. They also asked participants about their subjective well-being, a measure of happiness, and mental health.

The findings reveal that many teens interviewing reported declines in subjective well-being. Almost 67 per cent reported feelings of isolation, loneliness and vague physical symptoms. This mirrors unofficial report from mental health and care providers locally, who indicate that large numbers of our young people experienced declines in mental well-being during times of lockdown. Now that social restrictions have been lifted, many young people are eagerly engaging in time outdoors, and with this are arising reports of improved mood and well-being. It is important therefore to closely explore the benefits of time in nature, so that as a wider community all of our young people can consistently avail themselves of the many benefits of our natural environment.


The practice of being present in the moment has been demonstrated to reduce stress, improve emotional awareness and translate into a more peaceful existence. Nature provides innumerable sounds, sights and sensations to assist in mindful practice. Whether hiking a trail or enjoying a cool ocean bath, young people are immediately soothed during nature experiences while practising mindfulness; and even without being aware, just the presence of natural life, flora and fauna bring us all into a state of presence.

Inspiring creativity

Young people often find relaxation and inspiration through nature. Creative expressions have been demonstrated to be supportive in the management of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders and self-harm. As such, the combination of time in nature and fostering creativity are multiply beneficial. For young people experiencing mental health concerns, take time to immerse them in quiet time outdoors. Even sitting in a backyard, observing flowers or butterflies and then encouraging them to replicate them through art, poetry or song are simple yet effective mental wellness activities.


Time in our natural environment prompts many people to become more aware of activities within which they can intentionally protect our valuable resources or help to reverse some of the ongoing damage which is occurring. Youth who participate in beach or river clean up drives, or simply who take the time to delve into nature often emerge as proud champions of conversation activities. As we become more acutely aware of ongoing climate change and soil destruction worldwide, encouraging young people to be protective of their environment will yield many dividends.


We, as proud people have much to be thankful for when we consider our beautiful islands. Every day we are bombarded with images of war, destruction, death and despair. Yet how often do we actively take the time to enjoy our environment and express gratitude? A focus on gratitude instantly reframes the challenges of life and this is no different for teens and tweens. In your personal spaces, this weekend, take time to encourage and share nature with your young people. Use the opportunities for family bonding, creative expression and mindfulness. We have so much within our reach, may we all take the time to enjoy.


"Time in nature promotes teen mental well-being"

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