YORK is one of the best places in the country to escape into nature, a new study has revealed.

The Body Shop narrowed down its list of winners by looking at five key factors: urban greenspace per person, air quality, noise pollution, and the number of forests and walking trails across Great Britain. 

Plymouth came in first place - followed by Torbay, Exeter and Bournemouth.

But York still made it into the top five for its variety of walking trails, generally low noise pollution and good amount of greenspace per person.

Dr Audrey Tang, a psychologist and mental health and wellness expert, spoke to the Body Shop about how nature can "boost" our wellbeing.

Dr Tang said: “Humans are biophilic – we have an innate affinity with imagery and sensations that remind us of what we see in nature – wood, slate, curves. Thus, when we immerse ourselves within it, our mental health gets a boost.

"Not only does fresh air help clear our lungs, but also the sunlight naturally stimulates the production of vitamin D which also assists our immune system – and the sun as well as exercising in it can help produce endorphins (our body’s natural pain relievers) as well as serotonin (which helps regulates our sleep and appetite) and dopamine (the “feel good” neurotransmitter). 

“And, if you’re going out there with friends, you’re likely to also be producing oxytocin – the bonding hormone – bringing emotional warmth.  Nature also allows us to connect with all of our senses – try barefoot walking, or listening to the birds, smelling the flowers or even foraging (with professional guidance).

"Professionally too, nature can boost our attention span, enable us to feel “grounded” when in nature – giving us the strength we need to face the day’s challenges; and because nature stimulates all five senses, we also benefit from the sensation of feeling more 'alive'."

Dr Dimitrios Paschos, a consultant psychiatrist, advised people to spend more time out in the wilderness.

It can be particularly effective for people who have conditions like seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Dr Paschos said: “Many studies have shown consistent benefits from spending time outdoors or exercising in nature, even a 20 minute walk in the outdoors in the afternoon was found to be enough to improve mood and sleep.

“Getting outside gives individuals a break from busy schedules, enabling time to relax, reflect and give the brain a rest.  Going for a walk in the fresh air (away from the air conditioning or central heating) is beneficial to the muscles as well as having restorative effects on the mind and concentration.

“Different parts of our brain are activated when we are in nature, calming the mind and reducing heart rate and blood pressure. Natural light can be particularly helpful to individuals affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD).”