Open Voices Blog

Archives for posts tagged as "mental health"

Parents, communities take note: Teens need nature too.

02/09/18 | View Comments

Over the past decade, parents of young children have been told repeatedly by experts of many stripes: make sure your children are given ample opportunity to spend time outdoors. The benefits to young bodies and minds are many: Greater confidence, increased creativity, reduced stress, to name a few.

Yet, similar missives have been largely absent when it comes to teens. Sure, as a parent, the challenge of encouraging a 14-year old, who would rather be in her room on her smartphone, to amble outdoors is an altogether different situation than chasing after an eager six-year-old itching for the opportunity to climb a tree.

But the fact is, with experts sounding an alarm about the swelling rates of depression and anxiety among teens, we should be thinking of nature as equally essential to our older children as to our younger ones; equally essential to their health and wellbeing.

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Riots, Respite and Renewal in West Baltimore

04/12/17 | View Comments

From the outside, it could be easy to make assumptions about Sandtown-Winchester—the West Baltimore neighborhood where Freddie Gray was fatally arrested two years ago today. Vacant, dilapidated homes and boarded-up storefronts tell a candid story—a story of persistent poverty, crime, and misfortune. Yet, if you look closely, bright glimmers of promise and progress dot the urban landscape in some surprising ways.

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Healthy Minds and Strong Communities

08/16/16 | View Comments

A holistic, optimistic approach to health supports productive individuals, and livable communities where people can thrive.

Health is not simply an absence of disease or infirmity, but is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. Wholesome living environments integrate the opportunities of built, social, natural, and (increasingly) online components to help people be at their best. One important aspect of health – mental function and wellness – is not only the outcome of personal and lifestyle situations, but is highly dependent on the natural and built environments that surround a person.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. Each person’s health, specifically mental health and wellness, is intricately integrated with the social and built environments around them.

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Youth Health and Nature

07/05/16 | View Comments

This month consists of an exciting repertoire of respected scientists casting their vote in favor of nature engagement.

In an increasingly urbanized planet, close and consistent connection to nature has become rare in many places. Millions of people spend hours working indoors, driving or riding public transportation. In order to minimize unsustainable urban sprawl, cities have become increasingly dense, with living and working spaces layered on top of each other and encroaching on parks and other green spaces.

 “We want to reimagine cities as places of nature. There is already so much nature in cities – trees, birds, parks, aquatic habitats – but there is a lot more we can do to understand, protect and care about that.” – Tim Beatley, University of Virginia.
childrennature
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Shinrin Yoku

01/27/15 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. As you resolve to make your 2015 a spectacular year, we encourage you to spend more time outside for you and your family’s mental health and well-being.

 

This past year we have seen an awakening among many of the benefits of taking a simple walk through a forest. This relaxing activity is called Shinrin Yoku, Japanese for “forest bathing”. Have you heard about this? Do you think more people are becoming aware of the benefits of time spent in the outdoors?

As Spring begins to unfold, we encourage you to take a walk in a nearby forested area.

Breathe slowly, smell and see deliberately, walk purposefully.

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What do we need to be healthy?

01/20/15 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. As you resolve to make your 2015 a spectacular year, we encourage you to spend more time outside for you and your family’s mental health and well-being.

How does your neighborhood help you to be healthier? What would you change or add?

What do we need to be healthy? According to the World Health Organization, health is not simply an absence of disease or infirmity, but is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. In last week’s post, we jumped right into community green spaces and children’s health. But what do we know about designing healthy communities for all ages of people?

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Healthy Minds in 2015

01/13/15 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. As you resolve to make your 2015 a spectacular year, we encourage you to spend more time outside for you and your family’s mental health and well-being.

 

The mental and physical health of the children in your life is likely a top priority. When we talk about children and green spaces, we tend to think of planning and design for children as opportunities for running, jumping, swinging and climbing. Such gross motor activities are important to the physical health of children, but our mental health develops throughout childhood and life in subtler ways. Pause and think about when you were a child. Where did you play? How did you play? Do you remember picking up a small stick and discovering a world of tiny insects going about their day? Or spending an afternoon with your friends absorbed in a fantasy world built from imagination, found objects, and tall grass? Increasingly, child development researchers and playground designers are considering the interactions of natural objects and space, fine motor skills, and mental health. 1

Children in a Sensory Garden

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Evidence of Nature Benefits for Mental Wellness #3

05/20/14 | View Comments

Every individual can cope with the normal stresses of life.

Mental Wellness FINAL 3

 

“Stress response is triggered by the physical elements of our surroundings, by unpleasant social interactions, or by a perception of something threatening or fearful. When stressed one’s body releases hormones, such as cortisol, that trigger an inner ‘fight or flight’ response. Frequent stress response can fatigue the immune system, and negatively affect other health responses. Researchers typically describe stress in two ways: acute and chronic stress. Acute stress plays an evolutionary and survival role, occurs less often, and is in response to an alarming or traumatic event (such as loss of a job or death of a loved one). Chronic stress occurs when one experiences an ongoing stressor (such as daily freeway commuting, or work demands), leading to a heightened and nearly constant physiological response. Chronic stress is now more often studied because it is the type of stress most likely experienced by urban dwellers, and is an alarming public health threat. One can reduce or eliminate stressors, avoid situations that are triggers, or develop the mindfulness to cope with challenge. Studies suggest that nearby nature experiences in cities can be a helpful buffer.

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Evidence of Nature Benefits for Mental Wellness #2

05/12/14 | View Comments

Every individual realizes his or her own potential.

Mental Wellness FINAL 4

“Decades ago Abraham Maslow described the concept of a hierarchy of human needs.  The major idea is that people have basic needs such as food, water, and shelter. Once these needs are satisfied, a person, through learning, work, constructive action, and relationships with other people, ascends a series of stages to self-actualization. This pursuit of one’s potential is not necessarily step-wise. One can work toward having clean water, and at the same time pursue acts of creativity or social interactions that support one’s self-esteem. Rarely considered on these terms, encounters with nature and involvement in stewardship within one’s community may help a person to satisfy both basic and more abstract human needs, particularly those that involve mental wellness and function.

  • Urban nature, when incorporated into community planning and building design, provides calming and inspiring environments and can encourage learning, inquisitiveness, and alertness1,2.
  • Using national data for 10,000 people in the UK, a recent study found that, on average, individuals have both lower mental distress and higher well-being when living in urban areas with more green spaces3.
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Evidence of Nature Benefits for Mental Wellness #1

05/06/14 | View Comments

Every individual can work productively and fruitfully.

Mental Wellness FINAL 1

“Early city beautification programs focused on quality of life and generating a harmonious social order within crowded industrial cities. Today, incorporating nature into everyday places is seen as important for an additional reason—the effects on quality of life and human productivity. Cities with amenities are more desirable, and people who are healthy and are generally satisfied with life may also be better able to work toward both individual and community goals. New urban greening initiatives help create a “sense of place” for a city or town, generating a sense of pride for ones’ community. In addition, high-quality human habitat can be the places where students, workers, and community leaders restore their minds and bodies, enabling them to continue the important work that helps to keep a local community competitive1.

  • Mental restoration is gained from spending time in an urban green space, and increased length of stay (up to 1.5 hours) increases the restorative effect2.
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    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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