Research finds that green space produces consistently positive impact of less aggressive behavior, thus helping reduce violence. A community reading garden helps create positive effects. There should be hundreds of thousands of reading gardens all over our country.
~ William Sullivan
One of the great memories of my childhood was summer vacation. Each year my paternal grandmother made sure I traveled. Summer vacation usually meant an entire summer away from the, “concrete jungle,” I called home (Bronx, NY).
My travels took me to Puerto Rico, Mexico, Germany, and California just to name a few. I can remember the sadness and spell of depression when I returned. The bleak scenery, lack of trees, a deep contrast to the beauty and green spaces I explored in Puerto Rico. Access to green space is important not only for the planet but for our mental health as well.
Importance of green space exposure
According to research reported by PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of America), low exposure to nature, or green space, has been proposed in recent years as a potential environmental risk factor for various mental health outcomes.
Exposure to green space has been suggested to lower depression and schizophrenia risk , improve children’s cognitive development, and reduce neural activity linked to psychiatric disorders.
Dose–response relationships from other studies show that higher doses of green space are associated with better mental health. This makes so much sense to me and what I experienced as a child. Exposure to green space is critical for both adults and children.
Green space bonuses
Growing up in the city didn’t build up my tolerance for bugs and other creepy crawlies but I have come to love being outdoors. The pandemic really pushed me in this direction and I was able to see the benefits almost immediately.
I developed the habit of having my coffee and devotional reading on our back deck. Our backyard is filled with thick, large trees. Each morning when I go out I’m greeted by the singing birds, squirrels, trees, and a tiny frog the other morning. Connecting with this green space is magical. Whether the green space is big or small the benefits are significant.
- Improves mood and attitude
- Reduces stress
- Promotes better brain function
- Improves creativity and mindfulness
- Builds community
- Lowers depression
- Protects us from pollution
- Reduces mortality
- Promotes physical activity
- Improves immune function
Essentials for a day outdoors
It seems to me that making room for green makes spending time outdoors a good move. Whether you spend time at a local park, national park, state park, or community green space a little preparation may be required. Nothing like a day at the park and having all you need in arms reach. This is also a safer way to get out of the house after 400+ days of quarantine and socializing.
Green space prep…
- Large blanket
- Sunscreen/Bug Spray
- Pop-up shade
- Trash bag
- Cold drinks
- Hand Sanitizer
- Masks (just in case)
Incorporating some fun
Have fun like a kid and if you have kids of your own even better. Supporting our mental health doesn’t always mean strictly meeting with a therapist. Building our mental health bank can and should include fun activities. Becoming an adventurous adult can work wonders. So enjoy your green space through the lens of a kid.
Green space fun…
- Fly a kite
- Have a picnic
- Hike a trail
- Play a game
- Observe wildlife
- Grab a camera and take pics
- Take a bike ride
- Volunteer at a park/national park
- Explore trees
- Just chill
- Bubble Blower (old school with the stick you drip)
- Enjoy a great read
I have truly come to appreciate the importance of protecting the planet. The efforts made by environmental activists and political leaders around the world.
Learning how critical it is to our mental health, physical health, and overall mortality has brought the message so much closer to home. I hope you are inspired to make room for green and engage it as a part of your wellness journey.