Ever since the beginning of the rapid technological advancement period, rural people have started moving to cities, forming what is now called urban societies. Indeed, according to the statistics provided by the United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs a startling 55% of world’s population resides in urban areas as opposed to 45% of those living in rural areas. Moreover, since the process of global urbanization is yet to be finished, it is projected that by the year 2050 this proportion will have changed to 68% of the world population to be residents of the cities. This means over 2.5 billion people will be added to urban areas, with the most of the increase taking place in Africa and Asia.
Such an increase in the urban population means that urban planners are currently faced with a challenge to efficiently and effectively provide the rising number of city residents with a healthy and happy environment. One of the requirements that a lot of urban planners are trying to meet is the balance between the proportion of concrete jungles that are intrinsic to the city landscape and green space. Unfortunately, with the increased demand for housing and other buildings that accommodate daily human activities it is becoming more and more difficult to maintain a fair share of green space. However, it is essential to solve this issue as having sufficient green space is vital for mental wellbeing. In fact, modern scientists are currently trying to prove the strong connection between the two.
How Nature Impacts Your Wellbeing
There is plenty of evidence to support the idea that exposure to nature has a number of general health benefits. For instance, vegetation has a positive effect on ambient air quality and, subsequently, ameliorates human health and overall well-being. Moreover, having a stroll in the neighborhood is a nice way to increase your daily physical activity, which is extremely beneficial for your health.
While the relationship between general health and green space in your city is strong and well-reasoned, the degree to which having a nice park surrounding your residential area affects your mental state is open for debate. Recently, there have been a number of theses and proposition in regards to the question, hence several were published trying to correlate these two concepts, leading to the following findings.
Before we delve any deeper, it is important to deconstruct the terminology used in the discussion as it can affect the way we perceive the information further laid out. One of the key concepts mentioned in the question is mental wellbeing. While it may sound like a fairly straightforward thing, it is in fact a complex matter that constitutes a measure of positive mental health, separate from mental illness, and consists of two domains:
● eudaimonic dimension, which concentrates on finding a purpose in life and psychological function as well as general self-actualization;
● hedonic dimension, which includes the pursuit of pleasure, pain avoidance and satisfaction with life.
Another key term that this article operates is Green Space. In the given context Green Space can be viewed as a combination of different things and be measured in different ways. The things that constitute Green Space are:
● local provision of green space
● types of green space
● views of green space
● visits to green space
● subjective connection to nature
It is important to understand what is taken as the basic unit of Green Space as it affects the research a lot. In the older studies research used to take into account the overall amount of green space within a specific area, rather than the exact amount of green space that surrounds an individual’s home, which resulted in rather mixed finding. More recent research, however, try to construct a more reliable model and evaluate greenspace distribution in relation to where the monitored participants live in order to assess how their location affects their mental wellbeing.
According to various studies and extensive research, the two terms correlate, and there is, in fact, co-dependence of the two factors. For instance, researchers at the University of Warwick, Newcastle University and the University of Sheffield have recently published the new study in the August issue of Applied Geography, stating the following conclusions:
● Overall there is a very strong relationship between the amount of green space around a person’s home and their feelings of life satisfaction, happiness and self-worth
● Green space within 300m of home had the greatest influence on mental wellbeing
● An increase of 1 hectare—about the size of an international Rugby Union pitch—within 300m of residents was associated with an increase of 8 percentage points in a life satisfaction, 7 in worth and 5 in happiness.
● Green space was less important for mental wellbeing in Central London and East London
Apart from that, there are also additional independently conducted investigations to prove the relation of Green Space to mental wellbeing of individual that support the aforementioned information. For example, it is concluded that in the areas with less than average green space more green land cover is associated with fewer people reporting depression or anxiety disorders. Overall, in the long term there is a rather strong relationship between increased Green Space and decreased levels of mental illnesses.
This can be explained with the medical facts that state that being close with nature positively affects your mental health. There were multiple studies that prove that being close to nature elevates your positivity and creates a feeling of satisfaction. Nature really does soothe us and gives us the sense of comfort. A study conducted by Dr. Miles Richardson revealed that subjective feelings of happiness and wellbeing were positively correlated with natural activities such as gardening, animal feeding, bird watching, and bushwalking.
Benefits of Being Close to Nature
Nature provides us with vital for our health components. One of the most obvious yet still massively overlooked ones is the right dose of vitamin D. The right level of this vitamin in the body immunes us against cancer, diabetes and many other diseases. Just a simple stroll under the sun can significantly improve our overall wellbeing and subsequently have a positive impact on our mental state.
The Environment Is a Natural Purifier
Not only literally as it helps in releasing toxins from your body, but also as it allows us to come to terms with our own thoughts and find balance in life. It is essential for us to understand what is happening to us, and the best way to do so is to spend a couple of hours outdoors pondering over the situation we found ourselves in.
Nature Allows Us to Restore Our Attention Mechanism
This is a theory proposed by Rachel Kaplan that suggests that being outside one with nature can make us more observant and attentive. On a daily basis we are exposed to a number of triggers that take over both our voluntarily and involuntarily attention. Having a chance to forget about those and observe some natural phenomena such as leaves move or the clouds float can spare us of the stress of having our sense mechanisms overloaded, and instantly feel more relaxed.