Open Voices Blog

News and conversations about the growing evidence of the healing power of nature and green development in cities

Get briefed: The Connection between Mental Health and Nature

Posted on 05/03/18

This week marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness month. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, one-in-five Americans is affected by mental health conditions, and they impact the young as well as the old – and everyone in between.

While there are many potential culprits as well as treatment measures, this we know: being in nature helps fight depression and improve mental health and wellbeing. And the benefits of nature can be immediate.

We at the TKF Foundation have been writing on this topic for years. We have collected a selection of these writings, a “must-read list” on nature and mental health, and invite you to visit – or revisit them – as we turn our attention to Mental Health Awareness month. Among this curated selection: a report examining the body of research around nature and mental health; and multiple blog posts referring to other relevant striking studies and reports.

Report: Reflect and Restore; Urban Green for Mental Wellness
Two years ago, we published a report on recent research linking time spent in nature with improved health and wellbeing. Parks, trees and open pace allow for moments of respite and restoration — which are essential to our mental health. Over the past decade and a half, scientists have revealed how brief encounters with nearby nature, even in cities, can promote mindfulness, reduce depression and improve cognitive performance. Our report, Reflect and Restore; Urban Green for Mental Wellness, explores and summarizes the evidence.

Blog Post:
Nature: An under-recognized healer
In this blog post, we wrote about a 2017 report by the Institute for European Policy (IEEP) that homed in on the fact that people who live close to green spaces are less likely to be obese, inactive or dependent on antidepressants. Our post includes a link to the original IEEP report.

Blog Post: Parents, Teachers take note: Teens need nature too

In the wake of a recently-released study by Harvard public health researchers that noted lower depression rates in teens who live in close proximity to nature, we tackled the topic of adolescents and nature in this blog post, talking to the public health researcher behind the research.

Blog Post: The Brain on Nature
Walking has long been anecdotally recognized for its calming effect. But researchers have found that a walk in nature is markedly more beneficial than, say, a walk in an urban setting. In this piece, we visit recent research that digs into the topic. Sometimes called “green exercise”, walking in nature has been found to buffer against depression, anxiety and mental illness. Even a casual stroll through an urban park can offer immediate mood improvement.

Nature offers an undeniable means to strengthen mental health; at a time when concerns about mental health are growing — we can’t afford to overlook its role in our health and wellbeing.


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    TKF Foundation

    410 Severn Avenue,
    Suite 216
    Annapolis, MD

    Tel: 410.268.1376

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    About Us

    We are a private nonprofit that supports, informs, and inspires the creation of publicly accessible urban green spaces. We believe that every city resident needs nearby green space to provide opportunities for mindfulness, respite, and renewal. The Foundation has issued its final grants to build five Open Spaces Sacred Places and research the impacts on a variety of users with the hope that the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing will be scientifically proven.

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