After many weeks of quarantine, the majority of the population has realized the importance of being able to go out to get some physical activity and mental stimulation. The forced sedentary lifestyle, although relatively short-lived, has had effects such as:
Why do we feel good in nature?
The reason for the feel-good sensation most of us experience while in nature (or green spaces) has been explained by Edward O. Wilson in 1984. The biologist explained the phenomenon as with the hyphotesis of „biophilia“. What that means is that since the very beginning, humans have continuously evolved in nature, as opposed to big, gray cities, and that their brains have been ‚programmed‘ to keep them close to indicators of survival. Those indicators referred to greenery and bodies of water (trees, fields, lakes, rivers, etc.), and so, it is the reason why we instinctually feel connected to nature.
As mentioned, this is only a hypothesis, and it might not apply 100%, however, research has proven time and time again that nature has a great effect not only on the physical but also on mental health. And both are extremely important to a person’s quality of life, since poor mental health is confirmed as being equal to physical disability, or having the same damaging effects of CVDs and circulatory disorders.
Regular exercises, especially when done outdoors, weigh a lot too. The combination of working out at least 30 minutes per day and breathing in the fresh air while doing it is the perfect mix for a healthy mind in a healthy body. Fitness experts at Winsor Pilates encourage practicing yoga and Pilates outdoors for this reason. These two practices help relieve stress while activating muscles during the movements needed for the poses. Practice in nature, and you will be surprised how big your change in mood, mindset, and fitness level will be.
Greenifying cities is a Work-in-Progress
As more and more studies have brought to light the importance of having a green space near every neighborhood, a growing number of cities have already started working on bettering their land by:
Taking matters into your own hands
If greenifying isn’t something that’s going to happen in your city any time soon, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do something about your living condition yourself. If you have a backyard, plant trees, flowers, or bushes, and maybe add a misting feature to turn it into your little refreshing oasis whenever you feel like the city life is too much. And, if you live in an apartment building, potted plants are still an option. Aloe vera and snake plants are some of the cheaper options which can help you reduce air pollution, and the former can also be used in many other ways (drinking, moisturizing, healing, etc). For those with chronic respiratory issues, plants might help but they can’t clear the air of particles the same way an air purifier for asthma could (you’d need way too many plants). More often than not, these devices use HEPA filters, which have been proven to be the best for relieving symptoms and can also come with many other features, like carbon filters that remove odors, and ionizers that amplify their efficiency. Pair them with a room full of greenery, you’ll feel as if you’re on a mountain path with the crispest air that you can take in.
Benefits of Green Spaces and Nature
The main excuse that many representatives give when explaining why greenifying isn’t a viable option usually has to do with the costs. But those costs mean nothing compared to the benefits that citizens experience from having a city that is redesigned to be environmentally friendly. Research and analysis involving more than 7 countries and 8 million people have shown that having a preponderantly green city adds to its citizens‘ quality of life and lessens the chances of them dying earlier than expected, this regarding each individual group. And it all applies globally. For an easier understanding, we’ll be separating the benefits into 3 different paragraphs that have to do with the impact greenery has on the city, on the citizens‘ physical health, and on their mental health.
Greenery can be a Buffer
Think about the last time you’ve been in a forest. Have you noticed any loud, bothering noises, even if the forest was near the main road? Probably not, and that’s because vegetation tends to absorb noise pollution, keeping everything more quiet and relaxing, especially helpful during the nighttime. Another harmful human-made byproduct that it can absorb is air pollution, specifically harmful particles (and not only) that can affect the human nervous system and also trigger mental health issues. And if all this isn’t enough, harsh temperatures and weather phenomena can also be toned down with the help of the right trees and plants. Therefore, even a simple line of trees planted between a busy street and an apartment complex can make a big difference.
Continuing off from the initial point (the one introducing the benefits) in a more specific way, living near plenty of vegetation around has been linked to 12% lower mortality in 2016, in a study on US women residents. Links were also made to smaller death counts related to:
The last aspect that benefits from exposure to green spaces is your mental health. The reasons for this are varied, but we will go through with an explanation for all of them. Also, as a note, these all apply to both people who suffer from certain psychological conditions, and people who don’t. The possible reasons behind the positive association between nature and psychological effects are:
The conclusion we can draw from all this information is that not only are green spaces good for you for a wide range of reasons, but you should also strive to bring more of nature’s helpful qualities into your own home so that you can always have a space of your own to escape to.