Negative thoughts are, unfortunately, a common part of life. It is natural to have negative thoughts after you make a mistake or something has gone wrong. In some ways, negative thoughts can work in positive ways. They can be a catalyst for making positive changes in your life or can help you learn a lesson and avoid making the same mistake in the future.
The problem starts when negative thoughts begin to negatively impact your life. If this happens, it’s especially important to manage those thoughts and prevent them from interfering with your everyday happiness and overall well-being.
How to Stop Negative Thoughts
It is almost too easy to get wrapped up in the vicious circle of negative thoughts. When you’re busy juggling work, family, friends, and other aspects of life, it can seem overwhelming to try to focus on your mental health. The good news is that banishing negative thoughts don’t need to take a lot of time out of your day.
Changing negative thoughts into positive ones can be as simple as taking a walk through your neighborhood before work. Perhaps you take your lunch on a bench by a creek instead of in the cafeteria. Or, perhaps you treat yourself to a long weekend in nature. While you may not completely change your way of thinking after one afternoon in a forest, time spent in nature has been proven time and time again to help ease feelings of stress and anxiety.
Research on the Effects of Nature on the Brain
What is it about nature that seems to instantly promote feelings of peace and relaxation? It seems almost intuitive, as though returning to nature means returning to your roots. When you’re feeling negative, commuting through rush hour and walking through crowds of people in a city can exacerbate those negative thoughts and feelings. When you escape to nature, even for a little while, you can let the stress of the city melt away and simply be.
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A 2015 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that walking in nature can reduce the risk of depression. In the study, lead by Gregory Bratman, two groups of participants walked for 90 minutes each. One group walked through a grassland area with trees and shrubs, and one walked along a heavily trafficked roadway. Before and after the walk, researchers performed brain scans, measured heart and respiration rates, and had participants fill out questionnaires.
Although no real difference was noted in physiological conditions, researchers found significant differences in the brain. The subgenual prefrontal cortex is the region of the brain that is active during rumination (repetitive thought that focuses on negative emotions). In the study, neural activity in this region significantly decreased in participants who had walked in nature.
More than half of the world’s population lives in an urban environment and those who do have a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorder and a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders. Those who were born and raised in cities are also twice as likely to develop schizophrenia.1
This study is not one of a kind. There are countless other studies that focus on the positive effects of being in nature, both mental and physical. In fact, the Japanese concept of forest bathing is based on the idea that spending time in a forested area can promote general well-being and reduce the risk of stress-related illnesses.
Forest Bathing and Essential Oils
The therapeutic effects of the forest can be attributed to the wide variety of terpenes found in nature. All of these terpenes have therapeutic properties on their own, but the synergy of all of them together helps promote a feeling of peace that is hard to replicate.
Luckily, modern science has made essential oils widely available to all. Essential oils are highly concentrated versions of the natural oils found in plants and contain the same beneficial terpenes. Although diffusing essential oils throughout your home may not provide the same effect as a walk through the woods, they still provide a wide range of health benefits. Mountain, Forest, and Ocean all contain a variety of essential oils that help replicate the feeling of being in nature.
The next time you find yourself ruminating, try to take 15 minutes out of your day and take a stroll through the nearest wooded area. Aim to focus on the nature around you—the scents, the sounds, and the beauty. Practicing mindfulness can help you slowly eliminate the negative thoughts that are holding you back. If you can’t get out into nature, taking 15 minutes to meditate while diffusing essential oils throughout your home can also do wonders for your mental health.
Photo credits: MarjanApostolovic/shutterstock.com, Martins Vanags/shutterstock.com, AkhenatonImages/shutterstock.com