Nature Nurtures: 5 Ways Green Spaces Make Us Better
When I was a child, my grandmother always said: “Prasanna, go outside and play.” It’s an admonition heard in households around the world.
What if I told you we adults should heed this time-honored advice? And that better health, less stress and more creativity is just a walk in the park away? Research has repeatedly shown that time in nature reaps benefits for adults as well as kids. Five ways the great outdoors gives us a boost are listed here.
Nature Boosts Our Immune System
- Trees and plants naturally give off airborne chemicals call phytoncides. These have antimicrobial and antifungal properties which can boost the performance of white blood cells and increase their ability to fight off infections. One study of 100,000 women by Harvard University found that those living close to parks and, green spaces had a 12% lower mortality rate compared to women living in the “concrete jungle.”1
Just Standing in Nature Can Boost Our Mood
- You don’t have to walk in a forest. Just sitting and being in nature can reduce stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which decreases depression, confusion, anxiety, anger and fatigue. A Japanese study found that as soon as participants entered “green zones,” their blood pressure went down, pain improved and they reported a more positive attitude and motivation about life.2
Increase Your Creativity
- Just being in nature or around plants can improve focus, creativity and thinking. A Danish study found people who spend time in nature experienced a boost in creativity3 Other studies found people who work by a window looking out on nature performed better, were more creative and even happier. They also reported less depression and higher overall satisfaction compared to those who don’t have a window with a “green view.”
Reduction in Negative Events Including Crime and Violence
- Environment makes a difference in how we treat to each other. Researchers have found showing that developing green spaces within urban environments can decrease troubling behaviors. A study at the University of Illinois found that people who live close to parks, ponds and green zones were more united and community oriented. They tended to help each other and as a result there was less crime, gun culture and domestic abuse.4
Helping With Children’s Mental Health
- Children with ADHD experience a reduction in symptoms if they spend time outdoors – and the greener the space the better. Studies have found that children with ADHD performed better at tasks – such as putting together a puzzle — after a walk in the park.5 The effects of nature were on par with the use of ADHD medication Ritalin.
My prescription for adults and kids alike? Take time each day to go outside!
Four Ways You Can Make Nature Part of a Healthier Life
- Squeeze nature time into your busy routine. Even those who live in urban and suburban areas usually have access to green zones, parks and trees.
- Plant a garden – even a small one — or add plants to your home or office.
- Include your family, friends and colleagues in outdoor activities – everyone benefits!
- No time to get outside? Even viewing nature has been found to be beneficial. A Texas A&M study put half of patients recovering from surgery in rooms with a green view, and half in rooms with a concrete view. The patients with the green view took less pain medication, had fewer complications and were discharged home faster.
Dr. Tadi is a neurologist at the CHI Health Neurological Institute. Dr. Tadi is a member of the American Academy of Neurology. He is an assistant Professor in Neurology at Creighton University School of Medicine. His special interest is stroke care.