We live in an urbanising world whereby cities and population denisties are growing and taking over the green spaces which are very well needed. Various studies and research show that green spaces greatly benefit our mental health and well-being.
A green space can be anything which is considered to have some form of greenery, including parks, forests, nature reserves, fields, valleys, a backyard or even so a garden.
The experience of making contact with nature in all its glory, overflowing with green and brown shades, the fresh and pure air, the smell of soil, feeling the calm gentle breeze and hearing the sounds of fluttering leaves, is truly beneficial and therapeutic. It calms us down in the midst of a chaotic, rushed modern world.
In this blog, we will be looking at the ways in which green spaces truly benefit us:
- A greener childhood brings a happier adult
Studies have shown that children who are brought up in an urban environment with a lack of nearby green space, are more prone to experience high neural activity which is activated by stress, and therefore they have a greater risk of developing psychiatric disorders in adolescence and adulthood (Dwyer, 2019; Lambert 2019). Green spaces support healthy development of children and adolescents from an array of perspectives.
- Outdoor activities in nature have shown to help children with behavioural development, including alleviating symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), more specifically alleviating hyperactivity or inattention (Löfgren, 2020).
- It supports childrens’ memory devleopment (ibid.).
- It encourages play in children which is beneficial for the development of important skills such as independence and being self-disciplined (ibid.).
- It encourages physical exercise, socializing, and it also contributes to decreasing levels of air and noise pollution, and this is known to benefit our mental health throughout life (Lambert, 2019; Rocchio, Landsat Science Outreach Team & Carlowicz, 2019).
2. It aids our mental health
Regardless of gender, age and socioeconomic bacground, having access to green spaces and spending time in nature has shown to relax your nervous system and stress responses.
- It reduces cortisol levels, i.e. a stress hormone, therefore reducing stress levels (Barton & Rogerson, 2017; Löfgren, 2020).
- It can reduce work-related stress and increase job satisfaction (Löfgren, 2020).
- It can help reduce and improve feelings of depression, anxiety, agitation, apathy and anger (Barton & Rogerson, 2017; Löfgren, 2020).
- It can improve our memory and mood (Nature and Mental Health, 2018).
- It contributes to enhanced self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-image, self-control, self-confidence, self-empowerment, decision making and our sense of belonging (Barton & Rogerson, 2017).
- It can positively influence eating and sleeping patterns (ibid.).
3. It helps several Physical Conditions
Löfgren (2020) highlighted the following points:
- Gardening or holticultural therapy has shown to help people with neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Parkinson’s. More specifically, it helps with alleviating agitation and aggressive behaviour. Furthermore, living in close proximity to a road shows to increase the risk of developing the above conditions and also Multiple Sclerosis. Therefore, it can be said that where you live can impact the risk of developing such conditions. Even though it may be impossible to change this, having green spaces nearby may reduce this risk.
- It promotes heart health, and it further helps in the recovery of cardiovascular diseases, and heart surgery. This reduces stress, which in such cases can have a negative impact on blood pressure, and this is harmful for the recovering heart.
- It lowers the risk of developing a stroke and supports stroke recovery.
- It provides us with vegetation and cleaner air which helps alleviate asthma and respiratory problems.
- It can help prevent developing Diabetes type II and it can also lower blood glucose levels in people who are diagnosed.
- It helps us to feel relaxed and safe, bringing about rest and recovery by boosting important bodily functions, such as the immune system which protects us from a variety of illnesses and it helps us with healing too.
4. Improves Cognition
According to Löfgren (2020), in such a rushed world, our brain is always on the go and it needs time to rest and recuperate. Spending time in nature, or even just looking at views or pictures of nature, can help your brain recover and it can also improve your focus, attention and cognitive function. Despite your age, in attending to this and spending time in nature, you are also working on improving your social skills and life in general.
In conclusion, being in nature and in green spaces is a fundamental component of well-being. It gives us a mental and physical boost, which is vital to lead a healthy life. Therefore, try to spend as much time as you can in nature, and if you do not have much free time, try to fit it into your routine at least once a week.
Michela Aquilina is a trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist who is currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy and working as a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist with Willingness Team. Michela offers therapy to young adults and adults who are experiencing various challenges and issues relating to mental health and psychosocial, emotional wellbeing.
Barton, J. & Rogerson, M. (2017). The importance of greenspace for mental health. BJPsych Int. 14(4): 79 – 81. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5663018/
Dwyer, A. (2019). Study finds access to nature in childhood helpes mental health. Landscape News. Retrieved from: https://news.globallandscapesforum.org/33626/study-finds-access-to-nature-in-childhood-helps-mental-health/
Lambert, J. (2019). Greener childhood associated with happier adulthood. NPR. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/02/25/697788559/greener-childhood-associated-with-happier-adulthood?t=1611395087583
Löfgren, S. (2020). 15 ways nature and green spaces benefit your mind and health. Atlas. Retrieved from: https://atlasbiomed.com/blog/15-benefits-of-nature-for-your-health-and-mind/
Nature and Mental Health (2018). Mind. Retrieved from: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/nature-and-mental-health/how-nature-benefits-mental-health/
Rocchio, L., Landsat Science Outreach Team, Carlowicz, M. (2019). Green space is good for mental health. NASA Earth Observatory. Retrieved from: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145305/green-space-is-good-for-mental-health