Green Spaces and Mental Health: Why Your Physical Environment Matters?
The places and spaces around us affect our happiness and health. Our physical environment that is experienced through each of our senses, can affect emotions and trigger the brain’s stress or relaxation responses. Therefore, the places and spaces around us can either promote healing and well-being or be detrimental to our health. Not only does green space or a natural environment improve mental and physical health, but is essential for happiness and overall well-being.
The physical surroundings in your home and in your work space play a fundamental role in your happiness. Your space influences your mood and your outlook on a daily basis, not to mention your productivity. Your area plays a part in defining who you are and the emotions you feel.
As humans, we are generally inclined to feel happy and at peace in nature. Many studies have shown that there is a relationship between green space and happiness. Some have turned their backs on nature and in turn lost their natural source of happiness. By increasing our time spent in nature we will be more likely to find permanent happiness and so much more.
A study done over 17 years ago, already discovered that people living in greener urban environments have lower levels of mental distress, and higher levels of well-being. These findings actually backed up a previous study that found that surgical patients recovered faster if they had a view of trees from their hospital beds. Another recent study proposed that that a person’s welfare may be directly related to whether they are surrounded by urban green spaces. This study showed that residents tend to be happier if there are green spaces in their local environment. All this research suggests that contact with nature is very beneficial and leads to improvements in mood, cognition and health.
It has been proven that nature assists in restoring the mind from the mental fatigue of work or study. This in turn improves work performance and overall satisfaction. Urban nature such as parks provide calming and inspiring environments with boosts mental health. Besides this, green spaces provide areas for physical activity. Outdoor activities and exercise lead to better cognitive function, learning and memory. It also decreases the likelihood of stress, depression, cancers, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Regular contact with nature is also very important for children because it aids in most aspects of development and can decrease the symptoms of ADHD.
There have been some recent studies that focussed on the concept of Earthing/Grounding:
- Humans have evolved with a connection to the earth’s energy.
- In the distant past humans regularly walked barefoot and some even slept in contact with the earth.
- The surface of the earth has limitless, natural, healing energy for all to access.
- In modern times, we live indoors, and rarely (if ever) walk barefoot.
- Our earth has a pulse with its own rhythm, and this creates a frequency that vibrates and moves through the earth to the surface as energy. Unfortunately, we have cut ourselves off from this.
- All you need to do is walk barefoot in the grass, sand or dirt to allow the earth’s energy to flow through your body.
The medical world has come to realise that inflammation is the leading trigger of chronic pain, and most other major health disorders such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. Basically all these chronic diseases are due to our bodies being on fire.
What Earthing seems to do is transfer negatively-charged electrons from the surface of the earth into the body where they neutralise positively-charged destructive free radicals that are involved in inflammation. The earth’s natural energy makes the ground we walk on an particularly effective and abundant antioxidant! Best of all, it’s free, no need for pills or prescriptions, just take your shoes off and reconnect.
This may seem strange, but more studies are being conducted in this area and there is evidence that earthing improves viscosity (blood thickness), inflammation and blood flow. Even more studies have revealed that earthing contributes to de-stressing and has a way of balancing the nervous system, which has a positive effect on heart function. This means that this practice of connecting to the earth has advantages for physical and mental health.
How to Make Use of Green Spaces?
1. Slow Down to Natures Pace – If you walk slower, you breathe slower and will immediately feel more relaxed, and be more likely to notice and appreciate the nature around you.
2. Try Barefoot Breathing – Find a quiet peaceful place outside in your garden or a park, take your shoes off and breathing slowly and deeply. Take note of the sun on your face, the air on your skin and the soothing feeling of the earth between your toes.
3. Spend Some Time Cloud Watching – This activity should not just be for children, as it can clear the mind and brings calmness to all your senses.
4. Hug a Tree – This is a simple but effective way to top up your energy levels by soaking up all the strength and oxygen-rich air that the tree provides.
5. Plant Medicine – Plant or spend time around plants or flowers that appeal to you’re the most. Absorb their beauty and be open to the fact that they are giving you the healing properties you need most.
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