The Positive Mental Health Benefits of Nature

Julia Thiessen, Environmental Youth Alliance on October 27, 2014

“I wish we could garden everyday!”

“My grandma has this herb.”

“This grasshopper is my friend.”

These are just a few quotes I have heard working with youth using the Therapeutic Food Garden located behind the Mental Health Building at the BC Children’s Hospital.  I work for the Environmental Youth Alliance, with patient groups to provide sessions in the garden, focusing on the healing benefits of nature and growing fresh produce for cooking groups.

Studies are proving what I know intuitively, time spent in nature is healing. One study found that even short-term visits (of about half an hour) to urban nature environments had positive effects on perceived stress relief compared to built-up environments. This is something that I see all the time, the garden is a place for relaxing and enjoying the moment.

Other interesting studies examine the effects of exposure to nature on the ability to reflect on a life problem. In one study, Participants went for a 15 minute walk in a natural setting, a built setting, or watching videos of natural and built settings. Exposure to nature was found to increase connectedness to nature, ability to direct attention, positive emotions, and ability to reflect on a life problem. The effects were stronger for actual nature than for virtual nature.

Given the stresses that patients and families are dealing with, the garden is a place of respite to gain perspective. As one nurse put it, “After a garden session everyone is so much calmer, and more smiles.”

To learn more about the Therapeutic Food Garden contact Julia Thiessen: and the webpage:

To learn more about the studies from this post, check out the Mental Health Briefing on the Nature Sacred website:


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BC Children's Hospital

This is an agency of Provincial Health Services Authority, providing provincial tertiary mental health services to the citizens of British Columbia. Programs include: Adult Tertiary Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Women’s Reproductive Mental Health, as well as the Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program for children and youth located at the BC Children’s Hospital.

Provincial Health Services Authority

Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is one of six health authorities – the other five health authorities serve geographic regions of BC.

Ministry of Health

British Columbia Ministry of Health

RBC Children's Mental Health Project

RBC Children’s Mental Health Project is RBC's cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar; RBC Children’s Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues.

BC Children's Hospital Foundation

Through a wide range of fundraising events and opportunities, The BC Children's Hospital Foundation is united with its donors by a single, simple passion - to improve the health and the lives of the young people who enter BC Children's Hospital every day.