Humans have the ability to adapt to most liveable conditions. Where they truly belong, however, is alongside the nature. A study by MIND, a mental health charity in UK suggests, that being away from that natural habitat of theirs, humans can develop numerous risks to their mental health.
Having a green space in the surrounding, however, does not only help in reducing those risks, but also in fighting off different mental disorders such as, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), depression, anxiety, and numerous others. Based upon all of this the study concludes that the green spaces around us, especially in urban living environments, are essential for the improvement of mental health and must be at least preserved, if not increased. The encouraging news is that several urban housing forums have started responding to the study and are demanding local authorities establish more of these green spaces in their areas.
Benefits of Green Spaces
While what someone living in the middle of the Yorkshire moors and someone in central Birmingham might call green spaces will certainly differ, the term green space is broad enough to include maintained or unmaintained spaces designated to different forms of nature. This includes parks, urban forests, wilderness environment, and nature reserves among its many other forms. These initially became popular in the 1800s where London groups believed that spending time in these spaces, or simply being surrounded by, would have a beneficial effect on health concerns including those relating to mental health, such as:
Stress is one of the leading causes of some of the major psychological and physiological issues across the globe. From OCD and depression to more physical conditions like, diabetes and high blood pressure, a lot of medical issues have stress as a common denominator. A study conducted by the University of Edinburgh suggests that if the greenery amounts to less than 30% of a person’s surroundings, their body starts producing high levels of Cortisol, a hormone that can aggravate a stress situation. Therefore, a person going through post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or chronic fatigue can benefit significantly from green spaces around.
Having more and more green spaces around with easy access to them becomes a big source of happiness for many people. While there is no direct scientific reasoning behind it, studies suggest the main reason why green spaces are a big mood lifter is because they provide a great avenue for socialising and the incorporation of elements of living that are far away from current norms.
As the old saying goes, “humans are a social animal.” Living in isolation for long periods or not having any avenue to socialise can lead to bad moods, and in growing cases to serious mental illnesses like depression. A public green space like a park or hike trail, where people get to meet other people and socialise helps them break that isolation and maintain good mental health.
This is partially linked to the previous point where it was discussed how green spaces provide a chance for people to break out of their isolation and socialise. Living in a solitary environment or maintaining contact with the outside world can open the door to shyness in people. Initially shyness can be simply misunderstood and can quickly grow to social anxiety and a withdrawn stance from society. This is because once your contact breaks with other people, you tend to lose perspective on changing trends, news, and generally on how different people behave.
This again leads to conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression, which can eventually morph into other serious mental disorders, like depression, OCD, and even Schizophrenia in certain cases. Therefore, it is advised that more and more avenues are developed where people can socialise, so that they are abreast of developing trends and don’t feel any complexities around people.
Making it Happen
Realising the significance of green spaces for positive mental health, different communities across the country have come forward and have put together their own plans to increase green spaces in their neighbourhoods. For example, the importance of greenery and providing a safe physical and mental health environment for residents and visitors has been echoed in the latest proposal by a London group called the Mayfair Forum. Made up of residents, councillors and local business leaders, they have submitted a proposal to local government that heads the warnings and inputs the advice given by MIND.
Peter Wetherell, a resident and estate agent in Mayfair praises the proposal, commenting “The abundance of concrete and scarcity of green spaces around us has been a major cause of increasing numbers for mental ailments such as depression and anxiety. It is high time that local government pays attention to this major societal issue and allocates more central London space for green initatives.”
There is no doubt that mental disorders have numerous reasons behind them. From genetics to different medicinal effects, a lot contributes to such issues. It is also true that green spaces cannot, in anyway, alone be termed as their break through solution. An increasing number of studies, however, are also suggesting that green spaces do play a significant role in not only preventing, but also curing numerous psychological disorders. Therefore, it is important that the significance of these spaces is realised at a higher level and more importance is put on the development and maintenance of such places, especially in urban areas and future inner city developments.