In our fast paced lives, getting back to nature can greatly impact our health and wellbeing. Studies continue to show that spending time outdoors or immersed in nature can help enhance mood and self esteem, reduce feelings of anger, confusion and depression, as well as improving our physical health and building a sense of connection with others.
Now growing research is showing that just about any kind of “green” or natural space can you make you happier, meaning you don’t have to travel to the beach or trek through the woods to obtain the positive health benefits. The key is finding a space that holds certain qualities. So how can you best obtain the health benefits of getting outdoors?
Look for quality over quantity
When it comes to seeking happiness, the quality of the green space matters more than the quantity. A study published in the journal BMC Public Health found no significant link between the amount of green space in an individual’s local area and their mental wellbeing. So merely living next to a field or oval may not necessarily ensure you are getting out in nature. This is particularly so if the area is not maintained, or poorly lit, meaning we are less likely to feel comfortable visiting these areas.
Dr Andrew Lee is a public health researcher at the University of Sheffield in England, and has conducted large reviews of green-space research. Dr Lee says that the functionality of parks is paramount for making people happy, “It it’s a social space, where people meet together and chat and go on walks, that kind of social contact and interaction builds social networks,” he says. ‘That’s probably where the real impact is coming from that gives people a sense of wellbeing.”
If a green space is inaccessible, either for financial reasons or does not cater for people with differing abilities, then those people can feel excluded from these community spaces.
The key is finding a space that suits you. If you are someone who is awed by the beauty of nature, than a park with a water feature or with significant biodiversity are good for health. Or if you enjoy gardening or are looking for a social activity, than a local community garden might be for you. If you know what you are looking for, then any welcoming green space can help